The story of Runaway Creek is one of hope and triumph for all nature lovers dismayed by the ecological losses suffered in the past century. The property originally offered a hideout to runaway slaves. Before becoming Runaway Creek Nature Preserve, however, the land was slated to become a gravel mine. Had this plan come to fruition, the land would have lost its rich soil and ancient caves, along with its astounding beauty and wildlife. Fortunately, the Foundation for Wildlife Conservation under the direction of Dr. Gil Boese purchased the land to protect it, creating hope for plants, animals, and local Belizian naturalists who inhabit and appreciate the preserve. Few better examples of a burgeoning hub of wildlife, research and daily discovery exist.
“Runway Creek is to serve as a model for proper management of a critical ecologically important area,” says Dr. Boese. “By virtue of its presence, it not only contributes to the well being of the country and the globe but reaches out to the local people, while giving them some feedback to show them that it’s important to their everyday lives.”
An especially unique story of Runaway Creek is that of the . Also known as Aves Sin Fronteras, the program is an international bird research, conservation, and education program operating out of Runaway Creek and studying more than 300 birds in Central America. Thanks to the tireless efforts of more than 23 people involved over the last fourteen years, there have been 213 bird species counted on the preserve, 54 of which migrate annually between Belize and United States, some heading as far north as Canada. An amateur ornithologist on a winter trip from the north will undoubtedly feel a sense of both awe and tranquility in spotting catbirds, ruby-throated hummingbirds, black and white warblers, and other birds common to the northern states.
An equally incredible story is that of the endangered jaguar program at Runaway Creek. The staff had captured occasional glimpses and remote photographs of jaguars and puma on the property for more than five years, but only recently have they started learning the true significance of this reserve for jaguars in greater Belize. Staff like Omar Figueroa, former director of Runaway Creek and Ph.D. candidate, are leading a widely acclaimed study of jaguars on the preserve and adjoining properties. They are tracking and collaring the cats to study their movements, their prey, social strati, and the scope of their territory.
Dr. Boese hopes Runaway Creek can serve not only as a model for conservation but also as one of many preserves in a network throughout Central America and beyond. He hopes for a world with corridors connecting national parks and privately owned preserves to give species options to roam and flourish.
“All these small dots on the map – if you save one, that’s great. But if you save enough of these unique fragments in such a way that they can be linked together then you’ve created a system. If others do this in other countries and continents we may patch together a network of survival for the remaining species on our planet.”