Thursday, May 30, 2024

US high school student Natalie Schnurman spearheads fundraiser for Swallow Caye manatee reserve


Swallow Caye Wildlife Sanctuary, south of Caye Caulker, is a marine protected area and a haven for the native Antillean manatees. A visit to this area promises an unforgettable experience viewing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. The sanctuary is managed from an office established in Caye Caulker known as Friends of Swallow Caye. Their efforts have inspired both locals and visitors, leading to fundraising campaigns. One of these is currently by a 17-year-old high school student, Natalie Schnurman, from New York, United States of America (USA). She surprised those around her with her passion for contributing to the conservation of the manatee reserve in Belize. One way to be part of Schnurman’s fundraiser is by visiting the Go Fund Me page at
Natalie is a 17-year-old high school student from the New York area who shares her deep interest in preserving species like manatees. She feels privileged to be able to help and inspire others to get into the conservation field. “I am very happy to be able to make a difference in the future of these species and the programs established to look after them,” said Natalie. “I want more people to be aware that it is important to protect these beautiful creatures, who not only attract visitors in the tourism sector but add to the beauty and balance of Belize’s marine environment.” Schnurman and her family are no strangers to Caye Caulker and have been visiting for years. Her father, Mark Schnurman, told The Sun that his first visit with his wife to Belize was after Hurricane Keith in 2001. “Since 2001, we have been going to San Pedro and Caye Caulker yearly and have developed a great love for the county. When our daughter Natalie was born, we passed that love onto our daughter,” said Mark. During those early visits to Caye Caulker, the Schnurmans met Leonel ‘Chocolate’ Heredia, one of Oceana’s Ocean Heroes who lobbied for the establishment of the manatee reserve in July 2002.

Natalie Schnurmans with Leonel ‘Chocolate’ Heredia

From a very young age, Natalie understood the importance of conservation. Her father said she raised money for the Friends of Swallow Caye by selling shells, dancing, and playing flute on Caye Caulker. This year, she got some of her friends involved and sold handmade jewellery on the local beaches of New York, USA, on weekends.
The fundraiser proved to be a good call as hundreds of people purchased jewellery or made donations. The project further benefited following social media posts raising over US$2,100. Of importance to note is that the initial goal was US$1,000. Natalie stated that while the fundraiser was centred at beaches just outside New York City, donations have been made from all over the USA and as far as Qatar in the Middle East.
Friends of Swallow Caye are grateful for Natalie’s initiative to assist the manatee sanctuary. The organization has been struggling following the COVID-19 pandemic. They stated that such assistance from Natalie’s project would be a significant impact as it would give life to several of their manatee protection initiatives to be implemented.
The Board of Directors at Friends of Swallow Caye extended their highest regards and appreciation to Natalie, her family, and their love for Belize and the manatees.

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