How to Feed A Veritable Noah's ArkAnd like all the other animals, Lucky Boy has his own specialized diet. If you run a household, you'll know that feeding a family three square meals a day isn't easy and it ain't cheap.
Well imagine what it's like for the folks at the zoo, they have to feed 140 wild animals including herbivores, omnivores, insectivores, and carnivores who love to taste blood.
And all of them have to eat everyday! In 2009, Jacqueline Godwin went inside the zoo to find out first-hand - literally - how they feed all these wild and wonderful creatures:
Jacqueline Godwin Reporting,
The Belize Zoo offers visitors a rare glimpse of the animals not easily seen
in the wild. Yes, it is a haven for wildlife that must be well preserved.
How is it done? Well, it is no easy task as I discovered working as a
zoo keeper for one day. My day started off in the commissary. This
is where all the animals foods are prepared. A job that senior zoo
keeper Antolin Cano has been doing for the past 11 years.
What do you like about the job?
"Well it is very interesting to learn the animals behaviour; what
they like to eat, what's their habitat and it is very interesting, it
is like living in another world. Up to now definitely I like dealing with animals,
I love that part."
Well we do share that in common Antonin. Sometimes I do prefer animals than
humans. I get on much better with animals than I do with human beings.
"That's alright, I agree with that."
Most of the animals are fed twice a day and each meal takes two hours
to prepare. It includes chopping up seventy five pounds of fruits and
one hundred and twenty five pounds of raw meat.
"For sure many people they just come to the zoo and they might believe
it is just an easy job but it takes a lot of time and a lot of heart working
And it is seven days a week?
"Seven days a week of course. They don't have any holidays,
they need to eat everyday."
But as challenging as it is to feed approximately one hundred and seventy animals…there
are light hearted moments more like comic relief that came to me inside the
spider monkey exhibit. As much as I wanted to spend more time with the spider
monkeys I knew there were more hungry animals waiting to be fed.
Hello I want you to meet my friend Bambi, hi Bambi. Presently I am at the white
tailed deer exhibit, they are four of these animas in this enclosure. They are
pretty timid and as you can see they do eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.
In Bambi's bowl here there is this carrot.
As Bambi the white tail deer enjoyed his servings of carrots, cucumber and
even dog chow, balboa the snake already had her fill for the day.
The zoo keepers must also make sure the reptiles, like my friend here, the
pink boa constrictor is also well fed. Meet Balboa, she has been here for five
years, she's seven weeks long, she's fed once a week and she's
given strictly mice to eat. But as Balboa and I both bask in the sun there were
still more chores yet to be done.
Zoo keepers are not only responsible for feeding the animals but they also
have to make sure that the areas they are kept as clean as possible. But I must
tell you one of the dirtiest job is cleaning the pond inside the tapir exhibit.
These fellows do just about every thing imaginable in the water.
"Definitely we learn that tapirs, they use fresh water. In the wild
they would always be looking for the fresh water to spend time in. Tapirs normally
they use water for the drinking purpose of course but also they would use it
for the poop, they would defecate in there and even for mating."
So after brushing and sweeping away the dirty water from the pond
it was now time to move on. As I was guided out of the enclosure by Navidad
the Tapir I only had the greatest respect and admiration for the hard work
done by zoo keepers.
"Right here we are just in front of the American saltwater crocodiles.
Here at the zoo we normally feed them with fish and also we can offer them chicken."
Every year an estimated fifty thousand visitors and twelve thousand school children
come to see the animals at the Belize Zoo with no idea of what is done to
make sure the visit is a memorable experience.
"Our job is very interesting but apart from that it is very dangerous
also. We need to have all the precautions with animals. We need to be very concentrated
on what we are doing here and of course not just about feeding but it is also
about monitoring animals if they are sick, if they are not looking the same
as yesterday. So it takes full concentration of here."
Because the animals are wildlife there is always the need for caution. My time
with the animals was spent under close supervision by the zoo keeper. Visitors
are not allowed to play and feed the animals. The Belize Zoo relies on
donations to manage the facility and take care of the animals. A task that after
spending a day on the inside it would be hard not to appreciate.
Reporting for 7 on the inside Jacqueline Godwin.
Today Matola says she can't even calculate the poundage of food they have to prepare everyday...
Thirty Year Old Belize Zoo Boasts New Visitors Centre
It is almost as old as independent Belize, and at thirty, the Belize Zoo on the George Price Highway has made some positive strides since then. Today US Ambassador and member of the House of Representative, Dolores Balderamos Garcia, assisted in cutting the ribbon to a new Visitors Centre. Sharon Matola, who back in 1982 visited Belize to do a documentary, ended up staying here after she was placed in the care of 20 animals.
Today the zoo is home to over 140 wild animals, caged or confined to open spaces as close to their natural habitats as possible. It is sporting a new makeover, which includes a new visitors’ centre and freshly done seven-foot wide walkways spanning over 2,500 feet to accommodate for people confined to wheelchairs. Sharon Matola says she is elated at the accomplishment. It costs over a million dollars each year to run the zoo and most of that money comes from Matola’s efforts in raising funds abroad and from visitors’ fees. It can be a challenge, she said, to be able to provide daily meals for the animal population, but she has stuck with the job because she fell in love with Belize and Belizeans.
Now she is assisted by a staff of more than 25 animal lovers. The Belize Zoo is home to some of the rarest species of animals on earth, such as the Harpey Eagle.