About Runaway Creek
Runaway Creek is a rainforest preserve of immeasurable ecological value, historical significance and aesthetic beauty, tucked deep in the limestone karst hills of Belize. Over 6,000 acres of untouched savanna and dense rainforest harbor more than 128 species of animals, 315 species of birds, 4 species of large cats, and various other fauna. Innumerable plants, two rivers, and twenty-four caves also call the idyllic park home. While small relative to some international and government-run preserves, the spirit of Runaway Creek resonates within every staff member, researcher, and wide-eyed visitor who sets foot on its unspoiled lands.
What value Runaway Creek has in its land, plants, species, and caves is all but matched and accentuated by what is considered to be one of the most knowledgeable and experienced staff in the country. The Zoological Society has extensively trained all four Belizian staff members of Runaway Creek since the preserve’s inception. These permanent staff lead the maintenance, protection, and research of the preserve on a daily basis. A typical day of a staff member might involve banding birds, trapping and collaring Jaguar, chasing monkeys through the canopy, or crawling through deep underground caves.
In the past two decades, the foundation has provided training and schooling for more than 20 Belizians. Some have gone on to earn international scholarships and attend graduate school. Many also continue to work in conservation.
“For conservation to work you’ve got to get involved with the local people,” says Dr. Gil Boese, founder of Foundation for Wildlife Conservation and the Birds Without Borders program. “We set out to train Belizians to be conservation leaders because in the long run, conservation projects need to be initiated and sustained locally.”
The preserve shelters two nesting pairs of Jabiru stork, only 350 of which exist in the world. It also harbors more than six-dozen howler monkeys, endangered spyder monkeys, Jaguar, Puma, four species of bats, and other animals. The active limestone caves buried in the karst hills are an archaeologist’s dream, as excavators have discovered several ancient artifacts. The untouched ashes and bits of charcoal on the ground speak of the ancient Mayan ceremonies and ritual offerings that took place in the caves more than a millennium ago.
“I love what I do,” says Runaway Creek staff director Wilber Martinas, “I’m driven by the mission of the foundation and a passion for improving the quality of habitat for all the species that call Runaway Creek their home.”