The Wildlife Institute (WI) is a U.S. based veterinary study abroad provider offering veterinary and conservation-related courses, internships and tourism products with international conservation partners. WI’s mission is to support wildlife conservation through education and travel. The Wildlife Institute was founded in the US in 2011 along-side the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic (BWRC) by Justin Ford MSc. (Ecological Manager) and Dr. Isabelle Paquet-Durand (Wildlife Veterinarian). Justin Ford is the general educational and development programs director at WI, while Dr. Isabelle provides free veterinary care to wildlife at BWRC. 

The Wildlife Institute provides support to its wildlife conservation partners in Belize and the region through educational services and tourism development. WI expands its range and reach as it continues to develop veterinary study abroad and tourism services. Help WI make a difference. Join WI for a course, internship or an insider’s tour that supports Wildlife Medicine & Conservation.


At the Wildlife Institute, our mission is to support wildlife conservation through education and travel. Our approach is simple: We contract local wildlife conservation organizations to provide tourism services and pay them a premium. Your business provides continuous support to the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic and our conservation partners such as ARCAS, Friends for Conservation and Development, Community Baboon Sanctuary, Wildlife Conservation Society, the Belize Zoo, Wildtracks, Crocodile Research Coalition, the Environmental Research Institute, SEA Belize and others.


Belize and Northern Central America is a conservation hot-spot. Approximately 40% of Belize is under protection; by far the largest percentage in the least populous country in Central America. Neighboring Guatemala and Mexico also conserve large areas of lowland tropical forest. This means that there is a lot to protect. Threats from population growth, human-wildlife conflict, the illicit pet trade, illegal resource extraction and international incursions are increasing. Belize is endowed with the largest living barrier reef in the world, and the largest contiguous forest in the region. In the heart of the Neo-Tropics, the region harboring the highest concentration of Bio-diversity in the world, conservation in the region is of critical global importance. Wildlife Institute interns and students visit the region in the spirit of conservation, and to learn. It is a testament to Belize that the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic and Wildlife Institute interns have returned repeatedly; to continue the work they started through a course or internship and to continue to give back to a country and region full of promise and hope.

While you are in Belize and the region, you will have the opportunity to see nature free of human impact; corals, rain forests, wildlife, and stunning scenery. But you will also see nature in retreat. The realities of a developing country can be harsh and shocking at times. Central America presents great contrasts; at once a peaceful, democratic nations racing toward development; and an backdrop for unsustainable growth. The areas where we work are last regional strongholds for wildlife; and much help is needed. The Wildlife Institute exists to provide a direct benefit to the organizations working to conserve the region’s wildlife and protected areas; made possible by governmental and non-governmental communities, and educational partners around the world.


ARCAS (Guatemala) is a non-profit Guatemalan NGO formed in 1989 by a group of Guatemalan citizens who became concerned as they saw their precious natural heritage – especially their wildlife – rapidly disappearing before their eyes. ARCAS was originally created for a very specific and urgent purpose: to build a rescue center to care for and rehabilitate wild animals that were being confiscated on the black market by the Guatemalan government. Since its establishment, the ARCAS Rescue Center has grown into one of the largest and most complex rescue centers in the world, receiving between 300 and 600 animals of more than 40 species per year.

The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center was started in 1983, as a last ditch effort to provide a home for a collection of wild animals which had been used in making documentary films about tropical forests. Shortly after the backyard “zoo” began, it was quickly realized that its Belizean visitors were unfamiliar with the different species of wildlife which shared their country. This very aspect fomented the commitment to develop the little zoo into a dynamic wildlife education center. Today, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center is settled upon 29 acres of tropical savanna and exhibits over 150 animals, representing over 45 species, all native to Belize. The zoo keeps animals which were orphaned, rescued, born at the zoo, rehabilitated animals, or sent to The Belize Zoo as donations from other zoological institutions. The Belize Zoo has become the first nature destination in Belize that is fully accessible to visitors with physical disabilities.

BFREE was founded in 1995 with the primary purpose of developing and implementing a conservation program for the Bladen Nature Reserve. To achieve this goal, BFREE established a biological field station strategically located in the foothills of the Maya Mountains, adjacent to the reserve. BFREE’s mission is “to conserve the biodiversity and cultural heritage of Belize.” As the only field station in this biologically significant area, BFREE seeks to achieve its mission by successfully integrating scientific research, environmental education and conservation, while also enhancing sustainable development and providing alternative livelihoods for local community members.

The Belize Wildlife and Referral Clinic (BWRC) is a Belizean non-profit organization founded in 2011 with the help of a host of wildlife partners and friends. Our founder had assisted wildlife mostly in the field and without a clinic facility and only basic medical equipment for several years, before a very special and severely injured monkey, named Spartacus gave her the final push to seek funding to establish BWRC. BWRC can now offer on-site x-ray and gas anesthesia; for both wildlife and domestics. This is a first in Belize, and world class by any measure. The clinic receives wildlife patients on a regular basis and also has a small animal vet for its domestic referral services.

BWRC and the Wildlife Institute were both founded simultaneously by Justin Ford and Dr. Isabelle Paquet-Durand. Its aim is to provide free medical care to injured, orphaned, neglected or otherwise imperiled wildlife. The Wildlife Institute provides finances to the support this and other BWRC activities including conservation and educational outreach. The Wildlife Institute partners with the clinic to provide veterinary internships and courses to the international community.


The Cayo Animal Welfare Society (CAWS) is passionate about improving the lives of animals in the western communities of Belize. CAWS is operated by a group of volunteers. CAWS mission is to provide for a better life for all domestic animals of Cayo through education, health care and maintenance.

Founded in 1985, the Community Baboon Sanctuary (CBS) is a pioneering project in voluntary grass-roots conservation. Their goal is to sustain the habitat of the Black Howler Monkey (Baboon in local Creole dialect) while prompting the economic development of local communities. Over 200 land owners and seven villages over 20 square miles have pledged to conserve their land for the Black Howler Monkey. CBS has four main goals; conservation, education, research, and tourism. In 1998, the Women’s Group was formed and currently manages CBS providing direct economic benefits to local families. CBS’s Community Development and Mobilization project aims to strengthen the Women’s Group through training and long-term planning. CBS has responded to community devastation wrought by Hurricane Richard in 2011 with its Greenhouse Project. CBS has a fantastic little museum on site. The women’s group can arrange meals and local accommodations for visitors. Contact CBS to arrange your visit. Dr. Isabelle has worked with CBS over the past decade, taking student groups and tourists to see Howler Monkeys in their native habitat. The Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic sends each of its interns and student groups on CBS tours, and the Wildlife Benefactor Tour will include CBS on its itinerary contributing $200BZ per person to CBS.

The Crocodile Research Coalition (CRC) is a Belize-based nonprofit, established in January 2016, that seeks to preserve crocodiles and their environments throughout Central America and the Caribbean to ensure the long-term sustainability of biodiversity in the region.

Friends for Conservation and Development (FCD) is a protected areas management, conservation and research organization which manages the Chiquibul Forest, comprising 5% of Belize’s territory. Among FCD’s many fantastic programs are the Scarlet Macaw Nest monitoring program in partnership with numerous organizations, including the Wildlife Institute and the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic. The Wildlife Institute pays for staff and interns from the Belize Wildlife & Referral clinic to conduct veterinary health checks on nesting chicks to give them a better chance of survival.

The Zoological Foundation of El Salvador (FUNZEL) is a non-profit NGO founded in 1991. FUNZEL’s mission is to implement programs that contribute to the conservation of wildlife in El Salvador. Their purpose is to protect and conserve wildlife in El Salvador, developing research programs, rehabilitation of species, veterinary medical care, environmental education and awareness of various sectors of the population in order to avoid traffic and tenure of wild animals as pets and/or in captivity.

The Green Iguana Conservation Project is a continuous effort that aims to conserve and look after the endangered Green Iguana species in Belize. The Project uses interactive exhibits and programs to help educate visitors and create awareness among the general public. Here, visitors are given the opportunity mingle with these wonderful reptiles and also, learn the about the incubation, hatching, rearing, and releasing process. The Green Iguana Conservation Project offers the Adopt an Iguana Program and the Iguana Kids Club both of which raise funds to sustain the Project and fund scholarships. The Project has received much attention locally and internationally and is ranked as the Number 1 Activity in the San Ignacio area by TripAdvisor.

The Wildlife Institute’s local tourism partner for culturally immersive tourism experiences, no one does Cayo tourism like Nine Belize.

The University of Belize Environmental Research Institute (UB ERI), inaugurated in January 2010, was created primarily to address the large gap in local capacity for research and monitoring that exists within Belize. Belize has a wealth of natural resources, including the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, which supports the country’s most important industries, including tourism and agriculture. Recognizing this, the work of the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute is focused on producing results that are directly relevant and applicable to the sustainable management of Belize’s natural resources and building local capacity for this. At a finer but equally important scale for Belize’s development, the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute was created as a semi–autonomous department of the University of Belize (UB), with transparent and efficient management of projects at its core, in order to provide a much needed mechanism for research within the University.

Founded in 1990, Wildtracks is working toward the sustainable future of the natural resources for the people of Belize through conservation, research, education and sustainable development. Wildtracks implements its activities through four Wildtracks programs: Conservation & Research; Education & Outreach; Sustainable Development; and the Support Program. Under the Conservation & Research Program is the Manatee and Howler Monkey rehabilitation centers. Wildtracks has an excellent volunteer program which requires a 6 month commitment. Contact Wildtracks founders and directors Paul and Zoe for more information about volunteering or supporting Wildtracks. The Wildlife Institute began sending student groups to Wildtracks in 2013. Dr. Isabelle, founder of the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic began working with Paul and Zoe of Wildtracks in 2009 through the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network. Wildtracks and the Wildlife Institute are now working in partnership with the Wildlife Benefactor’s Tour and the Wildlife Medicine and Conservation course offered at the Belize Wildlife & Referral Clinic. The Wildlife Benefactor Tour donates $200BZ per person to Wildtracks.