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Stevan Reneau

Stevan Renault

Stevan Reneau

Staff (2004-present)
Languages: Creole, English
Expertise: Bird Banding, Cave Exploration, Identification of Plants and Species
“My heart goes to conservation. I fell into field work after high school and now that I’ve been able to build my knowledge in the field I want to be someone and do something. I want to follow this path toward conservation.”

What are your daily responsibilities?

When I was just starting to work we were doing a Rapid Ecological Assessment of the property. We were going into the caves and finding potteries and sketching them. We would take the GPS coordinates of the caves and idenfity pottery pieces and name the caves. After that we worked in bird banding with Birds Without Borders. We are still assigned to do bird counts each around the holidays. We would only take fur from the bats, but when David wasn’t around I would be in charge of taking blood samples from the birds. These past two years I’ve also been going to management and conservation meetings. I think I’ve participated in about 20 meetings in the last 2 years. It’s very interesting to learn about other the people and organizations working in conservation around the area. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) and The Protective Area Conservation Trust (PACT) were especially interesting because they provide funding to Belize and small NGO’s on properties. FWC is the same organization that is in charge of funding the mercury study with Dave Evers. Right now with the monkeys the girls are getting to be able to identify the trees and stuff. I help them out a lot with finding the monkeys, identifying the monkeys and the vegetation. I’m learning a lot about how to do the primate focals and scans. I’ve found it all very interesting so far. Of course there’s the part that you have to walk a lot but I’m getting used to it. I also used to collect data from the Jabiru. We used observe their tree nest.

Which of your responsibilities do you most fulfiling?

I love the birds. It’s nice to hold a bird in your hand and identify it. It’s very interesting to be that close to it. Now that I’m working with the primates it’s getting to be very interesting too. Especially because it’s an ongoing process. That’s what I’d really like to see on Runaway Creek. I’d like to see more projects coming on to research animals on an ongoing basis. That’s important because you have to see Runaway Creek changing over time to get the full picture.

How did you originally come to runaway creek?

Well after high school in 2002 I went to the Center For Employment Training and I was there for two years. Right after that I found the ecological part at Rancho Delores where they have a place called Spanish Creek. They gathered some funds and sent us out for tour guide training. In conjuction with that training we received training from Birds Without Borders. We got our certification. There were six of us but only two people would come each week to work with the birds at Runaway Creek. Then the girls fell out of the program. But the three boys in the program stayed and then all three of us came together each week. One of the guys lasted a year in the program and now he’s doing tour guiding. Me and my cousin continued for three more years but he fell out last year. I’m the only one left. We had another young man come into the program in 2007 and he worked with us for 6 months but then he fell out.

Why do you think you stayed in the Birds Without Borders program when all five of your classmates fell out?

My interest is here. I’m learning a lot. I would never have thought that I would have learned so much knoweldge as I have with Birds Without Borders. I used to do construction work in the summers between school. Now I’ve gotten to like to work with the birds and protect them. My heart was going to birds and conservation. When I stayed with it it brought out the best in me and I’ve learned so much. Naming trees and birds, learning the latin names of the birds and animals. It’s a lot of knowledge that most people stray away from.

Why did you decide to work in conservation?

Being in it you see people that are further along than you are. The have so much knowledge and experience. I have role models in these fields and people I look up to. Like David Tzeul, Collin Young, Dr. Boese, and Lillian. She’s like a mother to me [Lillian]. I want to push myself farther. I want to see myself one day running a protected area. I’m not an office person. I like to be out in the field and out in the bush. Every day you see something new and different. It’s nice to acknowledge that. It’s great just being there and doing it and being with people who are in that setting and working toward conservation – following that path. It’s nice to continue along something like that. My heart goes to conservation. I fell into field work after high school and now that I’ve been able to build my knowledge in the field I want to be someone and do something. I want to follow this path toward conservation.

What is your favorite part of working at Runaway Creek?

Getting up every monring early and going out into the field and searching and looking, listening for things. Well being out there in the morning… the early bird chatches the worm, right? [Laughing] You’ll see a different surrounding. That’s the time when you’ll hear the most of the animals and see butterflies, snakes, and iguanas. You get to hear to forest waking up. It’s quieter and then as the hours come on it gets louder and louder and louder. You’ll see different birds in the morning. And seeing what’s around the area at that time. The temperature is cool. You hear all these birds calling and whistling… the monkeys calling, branches dropping, the wind blowing. You can hear the different levels of sounds and the temperature changes. The hills are great too. It’s like when you are climbing the hill you have this tension and you’re getting called to the top but when you get to the top it’s nice. When you reach the top you experieince a different atmosphere, and the wind, the view – even different plants.

What does Runaway Creek represent to local conservation in Belize?

From my knowledge of Runaway Creek I would say that it has an especially large data base in lots of different areas of research. Other places have a lot of data about trees and such, but other preserves and organization haven’t had the experience we have. They ask us how we’ve done things and ask us to assist them with bird banding and other research. For most of the bird counts that happen in Belize there is at least one of the Birds Without Borders staff hired to lead a group of five or more. Birds Without Borders is the looked upon as the top organizaton for birds in Belize. I’ve done some birding with guys in Canada. Most of the time i am one of the guys who seems to have a lot of experience. You really have to be experienced in birds because sometimes a bird will only make one sound per hour. And that bird is important to the list. You have to be sharp on your calls, the colors, and identification. We have a lot of people going bird-wise in Belize but it’s still small. Like maybe 150 people. But most aren’t very well qualified. In birding you have to be very sharp. You might have six bird calls all at once and you have to be on the t’s and toes with the calls. From my experience doing birds I know birds by the call rather than seeing them.

So it sounds like you enjoy the challenge of the work you do…

Well yeah man!

What do you see as the mission of Runaway Creek

I think maybe we should stay in this growing position of seeing Runaway Creek developing other conservations here in Belize. Helping them and giving them a hand to get established. Runaway Creek has so much to offer. We have such a small and unique area. Most of the research we have covered very well. We will also want to do education projects and such but we’re not positioned in that way yet. I would say conservation-wise we are on the right path and have taken the right steps. I would like to see more education projects going on especially for those coming out of high school up to maybe around twenty five.

How do you see education in the role of Runaway Creek’s mission?

I would say the role is more toward birding and I think that if some organization would have the qualifications that Birds Without Borders has then you would start to see more upcoming tour guides in Belize. In my position where I am right now i would have like 95 more experiences if I were to do guiding now rather than when I was just starting. Passing on this knowledge to the guides. Even with the bigger birding organizations like at The University of Belize they don’t offer the same education opportunities that Birds Without Borders does. It’s all segmented. With Birds Without Borders you get the feel of the trees, birds, insects and the natural part of the teaching. Birds Without Borders provides a more hands on knowledge based experience.

Can you speak on the effects of paoching in Belize?

I will talk from my heart. I don’t have a problem with poaching because where I come from growing up it’s something you come to depend on. Like a Gibnut provides food on the table. But being part of the orgnaization and learning more I’ve gotten a wider perspective. Really the only thing I don’t like about poaching is when hunters light fires because they will kill a lot of unique and interesting plants. There may be an area where there is a plant that has never been named or discovered.

Did you have any turning point in your passion for nature and conservation?

I would say that after all the other guys fell out of the program and I was the only one left with the organization, I think that experience pulled me toward it more. Seeing that I’m still here and that means that I’m still doing good. I think it really started to get interesting then. I think I’m most passionate about it because I’m doign something I never thought I’d do before. Being in that position made me know that this is my path, this is where I belong and it brought me further towards it.

What was one of your most memorable days at runaway creek?

This one day me, Ray, and David were walking toward this village called Gracie Rock bordering our proeperty. Raymond was leading, David was second, and I was third. This Mountain Cow suddenly got up and frightented me so bad i nearly knocked David down. [Laughing] I was so petrified! It’s something I will never forget.

What would be one thing you would might communicate to people given your unique experiences in nature?

Well I would just want people to know more about conservation. This is what we live in. We live in this environment. For so many years I’ve heard and seen that the planet is losing it’s biodiveristy. Letting them know that the environment is important to us and knowing that it’s shrinking. And the conservatiion position is shrinking. Maybe I’d say that my heart goes out to conservation because there aren’t a lot of people who are in the positioin to get opportunity to get involved with conservation. I think that conservation is the main thing for Belize right now. You have to love it. You have to love what you’re doing. Even if I was not getting paid I’d still do conservation work. It’s a feeling you get from it to be doing something towards conservation.

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