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By Tony Rath

The current pristine state of Belize’s Sarstoon-Temash National Park’s unique wetlands and mangrove complex owes much to its remoteness, difficult access, and hostile habitat; the discovery of oil there is changing that. A team of scientists collects ecological data which might help guide the Park’s management.

The skiff drifts quietly toward the riverside, the outboard still. A young man standing in the bow gently parts the branches overhanging the water till the boat touches the bank. He ties the bow line securely to a tree, then pulls the boat parallel to the shore.

Peering over the side of the skiff, I grab my camera bag, raise my leg over the gunnel and search carefully for a place to put my foot. I have a choice: leaf covered muck, thin arched root, or an unknown puddle inches or feet deep. The root it is. The second step? Same options. I chose another thin root. Now completely out of the boat, head down, I search for that third root. Cautiously I lift my back boot to step forward, my front boot slips, both plunge into a slurry of sludge.

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