The Belize Zoo: Wildlife Rescue, Education Center, and Local Animal Sanctuary

The Belize zoo is unlike any zoo I've ever been to. When I think of a zoo what usually comes to mind are small enclosures with a variety of animals not indigenous to that country and huge crowds of people all trying to see a big cat get fed from a metal hook. The Belize zoo is different from the "regular zoo". This zoo is a non profit animal sanctuary, and does not receive any funding from the government, so all the visitors coming to the zoo who are paying for admission tickets, and other optional close up experiences.

Before going to the zoo I was most excited to see the toucans and the endangered jaguar. When we got to the zoo, a guide met us at the front.   He took us on a tour of the most exciting exhibits. The toucans were one of the first animals we saw and I instantly loved them. The zoo rehabilitates toucans which were either former pets or hurt in the wild by humans.  The four we observed were highly vocal, and were seen socializing with each other. The sound they made sounded like a frog choking on a fly. At first it was entertaining but soon began to irritate me.. I personally find toucans very beautiful even though they are awkward looking. Their bodies are black on top and yellow under their neck and they have a banana shaped beak. Their beak resembles a neon rainbow and are very strong and the toucans main feature. Following the toucans we saw a few more animals like spider monkeys and deer but finally we got to the first jaguar exhibit.

At first when we approached the habitat all I saw were green ferns and palms but our guide whistled a couple of times and a beautiful jaguar emerged from the undergrowth. It was smaller than I thought but just by looking at it I could tell it was a powerful animal. With a  beautifully spotted coat this animal has been heavily hunted, fetching a high price on the black market. With large paws that hid sharp claws and a jaw that could snap a persons neck in seconds it was amazing to see it so close. Seeing the jaguar with all of its wonder made me want to see it more up close and personal. In the next jaguar habitat we had the opportunity to go into a cage and sit just inches from the jaguar. This experience was both the most memorable and the most intimate I had at the zoo. The jaguar played right in front of the cage then jumped up on top of the cage and even licked our foreheads. It's tongue was very rough but I didn't care because a jaguar was licking my forehead.  A JAGUAR!! We even got to pet it a little bit, I was surprised at how amazingly soft and warm it was.

Overall the zoo was an amazing experience I won't forget. Seeing animals that I had only seen in nature documentaries or in pictures helped to me how much beauty is in the natural world we live in. Even more so how animals are affected both directly and indirectly by human impact. The animals at the Belize zoo are not kept there strictly for human entertainment like many other zoos. The animals are there for their own health and well being and all the animals that inhabit the zoo are native to Belize which makes the zoo even more of an amazing place to go.

 


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Author Camille Bayer Posted