A heron with a broken wing, a pelican injured as a result of entanglement with fishing tackle, a coatimundi hit by a car and even an ocelot in captivity, all these and many more wild birds and animals are nursed back to health by Cancun couple Hilary and Alberto (‘Beto’) Charles.
The Royal Resorts Foundation helps them in their work by donating old towels and sheets every month to be used as hammocks for the patients to rest in, slings and bandages.
In a fast growing city like Cancun wildlife faces many threats, ranging from loss of habitat and pollution to rapidly moving traffic. Birds fly into plate glass windows and seabirds are injured by boats, fishing nets, lines and hooks and plastic garbage. Parrots and other jungle birds, monkeys, baby coatis, margays and ocelots are hunted in rural areas and sold illegally as pets in the city. Many are rescued by the authorities in a state of neglect and are taken to Hilary and Alberto for care.
Cancun residents for almost 40 years, Hilary and Alberto began their rescue work 35 years ago and Hillary, who once watched and helped out at vet surgeries at a Mexico City university, is now an expert in the care of wild animals. She recently participated in a training course given by the University of Texas on wild bird management for local vets.
When Hilary and Alberto first started rescuing birds, news of their dedication quickly spread and Cancun residents began to leave injured birds and animals that they found in their neighborhoods at the family residence. Nowadays, the Fire department, government environmental agencies and local vets all call on them for help.
The birds that they rescue include owls, ospreys, peregrine falcons, parrots, orioles, doves, motmots and huge frigate birds. They have raised mockingbird, pygmy owl and Yucatan jay chicks, painstakingly fed hummingbirds with a honey and water solution and taught young woodpeckers how to search for beetles and larvae in tree bark using a training log. Pelicans, herons and ducks wander freely in their back yard and flight cages house eagles and hawks. Every morning the park in front of their house echoes with the rattling calls of chachalacas that they once cared for and that now roost in trees that the Charles family have planted over the past 30 years.
They regularly receive injured raccoons, opossums, squirrels and foxes. They often have two or three coatimundis running around. Coatimundis are gregarious creatures so they wait until they have troupes of five to six before releasing them together. They have even tended porcupines and their young, peccaries, monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas, kinkajou, deer and the tamandua or Mexican anteater, which often falls victim to traffic due to its poor vision and slow movements.
When completely recovered, wild birds and animals are released into their natural habitat again wherever possible. This means taking them to areas of pristine jungle or wetland, private reserves such as El Eden or the huge Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve where they are set free.