Imagine standing at the heart of the vast Belize-Maya Forest, the lush canopy whispering secrets of an ancient civilization above, and the ground echoing with the footsteps of elusive deer. What you’re embarking on isn’t just another jungle expedition, but a dive into the Belize-Maya Forest Tropical Ungulate Research Project of Summer 2023.

The Experts Behind the Exploration

The Experts Behind the Exploration

At the helm of this project are Annie Stevens and Johny Tzib, master’s students and co-leaders, backed by Professors Brett R. Jesmer and Marcella Kelly from Virginia Tech, and Professor Elma Kay from Belize-Maya Forest Trust. Their shared ambition? To fill the void in our understanding of habitat conditions vital for the survival and reproduction of the white-tailed and red brocket deer in Belize and the wider Neotropics.

While you may think deer are just simple creatures of the woods, the story in the Neotropics is far from straightforward. How do these deer decide where to live? How do they steer clear of predators like pumas and jaguars? And when do they mate or fawn? The team aims to unveil these mysteries by employing GPS tracking collars, capturing insights into deer habitat preferences, survival patterns, reproductive timing, and predator evasion.

Breaking Down the Objectives

Breaking Down the Objectives

The journey began with Annie, Johny, and technician Riley Asen setting base in Gallon Jug and the encompassing Belize-Maya Forest region. June saw the meticulous training of the team on deer capture and handling protocols. Safety, for both deer and the team, was paramount. From mastering the dart gun to ensuring deer’s well-being post-capture, the team left no stone unturned.

By now, eight white-tailed deer have been adorned with GPS collars, with each deer’s capture being a meticulously orchestrated event: darting, ensuring its comfort, affixing the collar, collecting samples, and safely releasing it back into the wild.

Unveiling Secrets

This endeavor isn’t a solitary one. The community plays a pivotal role. Baiting efforts were significantly amplified thanks to generous fruit donations from local villagers. Johny, in return, shared the team’s objectives, methods, and findings with the Sylvester village, and Annie took the findings international, presenting the research at the 13th International Mammalogical Congress in Anchorage, Alaska.

No research is solitary. This endeavor is possible thanks to the Belize Forest Department, Belize-Maya Forest Trust, and Gallon Jug Estates. A nod also goes to Dr. Isabelle Paquet-Durand and the Belize Wildlife Referral Clinic for their unwavering support and advice.

Discover Chan Chich Lodge: A Beacon in the Maya Forest

A Beacon in the Maya Forest

Nestled amid this magnificent expanse of wilderness lies the Chan Chich Lodge, a lush jungle resort that doesn’t just offer a place to rest, but also immerses its guests in the heart of the Belizean wild. Given its proximity to the research sites, Chan Chich Lodge serves as an ideal base for those curious about the Belize-Maya Forest Ungulate Research Project.With curated tours led by knowledgeable guides at Chan Chich, guests are introduced to the wonders of Belize’s flora and fauna, walking in the footsteps of researchers and witnessing the majestic deer in their natural habitat.

Coupled with unparalleled luxury and authentic Belizean experiences, Chan Chich Lodge ensures that every guest leaves with memories of a lifetime and stories of the magical Maya Forest.

Explore Chan Chich… Discover Belize.