Every local wannabe celebrity has a birthday bash at a paid for event at nightclubs. This particular birthday bash, had the presence of the Ugandani dancers, an elected area representative and, get this, the birthday girl was treated to four cakes. And unlike other local celebs, this bash is the feature of tonight’s newscast. It is April the Tapir’s birthday and she celebrated in grand fashion at the Belize Zoo. Every year in April, the zoo, along with friends and students across the country host a party for the birthday girl. This year’s party had loads of fun, treats and surprises. News Five’s Andrea Polanco received a V.I.P. pass for the birthday bash.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
April is twenty-nine years old. The tapir, recognized as the oldest female tapir in captivity, celebrated her big day with style. Over two hundred visitors from across the country made their way to the best little zoo in the world, The Belize Zoo, to wish April a happy birthday. The first out of four cakes she got, was one of her favorites:
Sharon Matola, Founding Director, Belize Zoo
“She had to have more than one cake because there are so many kids. As I mentioned earlier, her first birthday party was when she was two and five kids showed up and now its hundreds. So we can’t just give her one big cake because it will disappoint so many children so we had to get a special four cakes made of horse chow, honey, cucumbers, flowers; all the things that a mountain cow likes to eat is in the cake and it’s soft so she doesn’t have to worry about chewing it. I am sure she is a very happy tapir right now.”
“Ms. Sharon, I know that you’ve been along with April from the very start; today she is twenty-nine years old. How many more years of life you think April has yet to see?”
“You know that is such a good question. She is the oldest female tapir in captivity; we do know that, we did our research. She has been doing so great. The only difference is in her food and diet regime. We have to boil it now because her teeth are so worn down. She gets up, she walks around, she has got a lot of zest in her and I think that she has a few more years in her. You know I was just thinking yesterday how significant that animal is. Yeah I raised her; I saved her life and she was April the Tapir when the late Hon. George Price was Prime Minister. She has seen change of governments; she has met movie stars; she has met royalty; her history is really, really rich and colorful and she has been with me though ups and downs; she is really special. I think all the kids know April the Tapir and she is beloved member of the Belizean society.”
April was treated to rounds of rousing birthday songs; interactive educational games and even a special performance by the Ugundani Dance Group highlighted the entertainment. Visitors from Chetumal also brought good news for the zoo:
“Our colleagues from the Bio Universe Zoo which is the zoo in Chetumal came all the way down from Chetumal to be a part of this. We share the same philosophies and principles and we are working had to work together and I will say this for channel 5, they have a male keel bill toucan that they say we can have so we just have to work out the permit and we may be able to have a nice exhibit later on in the year, featuring our national bird.”
Also as a highlight in the day’s activities, was a parachute jump of five thousand five hundred feet. The sky diver delivered a new book entitled ‘Tambo The Tapir, Tells His Tale’. It is a true story on the survival of a young tapir:
“When you open the book, you’re going to follow the life of his little Mountain Cow from the time he was orphaned. The purpose of the book is to hopefully reduce these types of tragedies; his mother was shot and what happened to her, we don’t know but we do know that she was shot. He was being sold for a pet and the Forest Department and the Zoo worked together; they brought him to the zoo and when he was just a very tiny baby and we raised him. But we made it an initiative to see that we photograph his development and told a story with it so that one day and today is that day, the people would know what he experienced and how his sad story turned into a happy one.”
And April’s birthday will now be part of a bigger event. April twenty-seventh is now officially recognized as National Tapir Day in Belize:
“Jamal Andrewin, who is our educational officer, came up with the idea. He had visited Panama and they did this big celebration every year for their national bird which is the Harpy Eagle and he started saying that you know World Tapir Day is the twenty-seventh of April and we celebrate April’s birthday in April; how bout hooking on National Tapir Day to really celebrate our national animal, which is an endangered species. So we put together a letter to the Prime Minister and it got a green light and we’re moving forward. And today is National Tapir’s Day. It’s got a dozen or more NGO’s that have signed on to it and what we were looking forward to is seeing it on the calendar as National Tapir’s Day. Every April twenty-seventh, we will be celebrating that, not only in the zoo but we will extend that celebration through-out Belize.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.
Also in attendance for April’s Birthday were representatives from the Ministry of Education, Non-profit environmental organizations, Ministry of Forestry and Area Rep Dolores Balderamos Garcia.