Jamal Galvez has made the news many times as a manatee protector and first responder.
And now the National Geographic Society has highlighted him as a conservator of manatees. It's a major international honour and we spoke to him about it today via video conference:
Cherisse Halsall, reporter "Talk to me a little bit about what was highlighted in the National Geographic video about your beginnings in this field?"
Jamal Galvez "It kinda captures the entire journey. As most people who are close to me or who may have followed my work for a long time would know that this journey has started out for me from a very young age. Those videos are videos that are pulled from archive, not even myself knew those videos were taken. When I saw the image of myself, it kinda brought me back to that exact day in that situation and I was just a young kid wanting to be a part of conservation - wanting to be a part of an effort that will contribute to Belize."
"Growing up in Gales Point Manattee, a very small village, small population and the village is famous for Manattee presence there and growing up as a kid I would be looking at boats drive by and I said what are these guys doing and got to know they were doing research and my cousins and I would play Manattee rescues and would fight to get to drive the boat and eventually I've outgrown and I stroll down to the dock where they were leaving and I approach the guy who is my boss today and I said to him at 11 years old, I said Doctor Powell I would like to come out with you and he was like ah kid you're too small. I'm not sure if it was about to cry look or what, but he's like ah kid lets go. I went out with them, I didn't even ask my grandma's permission which had some consequences when I got back, but that discussion is for another day. Being out with renowned scientist taught me so much. I always knew about Manatees like a bird, a dog or just another animal. But being out with these scientist taught me so much that these animals are in trouble, they are scared, they are endangered and I felt that being a child of that village, being a citizen of Belize who's better to protect this species that one of our very own."
"As much as we can, the goal is safeguard Manatees in Belize and National Geographic provides the ultimate platform, second to one. National Geographic goes beyond the horizon and it's a privilege, it's an honor - its hard work paid off for myself and my colleague, partners, donors - too many people to mention, but it's an inclusive effort, bot just myself, but inclusive of many people that contribute to this effort. National Geographic and Zoological Society of London in 2008 selected me as one of their photo art fellow. A photo art fellow is under the National Geographic photo art - a guy on a mission to photograph wildlife before they go extinct. Manatees falls within that photo art as it is a specie that is endangered and I was one of the outstanding persons that have applied for the program that have work with the Manatees and was gratefully selected for the work that we have been doing here in Belize and since 2008 I've become a National Geographic explorer who provides a platform for us who speaks and bring a voice to these animals that don't have a voice."
"The main goal is try and bring the necessary protection that these animals need in order for them to survive into the future and I was supposed to be in Houston right now as a part of the Earthx fair where I was to present my efforts here in Belize which is a large platform to speak. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 issue have grounded us as well. The virus has affected us in many ways as well, but nonetheless we are hopeful that we can get pass this soon and for us to continue sooner rather than later, because there is a lot of work left to be done."
If you'd like to Donate to the Manatees through Jamal's initiatives you can go to CMAaquarium.org.