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#453409 - 12/13/12 05:41 AM The Belize Zoo Is 30!!!
Marty Offline
At the Belize Zoo, they just loooove birthday celebrations. If it's not April the Tapir, then it's Junior Buddy the jaguar or Panama the Harpy…and they just keep coming.

Today was another birthday, but a very special one - as the place that calls itself the Best Little Zoo in The World turned 30.

As we found out, it's not so little anymore - but it is a lot easier to get around! Jules Vasquez reports:

Jules Vasquez Reporting

The Zoo celebrated its birthday today with the opening of a new visitor's Centre:

Sharon Matola - Founding Director, Belize Zoo
"Overwhelmed is not descriptive enough about how I feel. I'm just - I've seen this place together in the past 4 months with amazing energy, and you know how much it's been raining here, some of the challenges that we've been facing. But, there it is, and I'm just overjoyed. We've really created a spacious, useful building with its own education program and it's own education classroom. It's all handicapped access, and that will allow people - especially school groups which come here - they'll have a classroom with interactive components in it. We're going to have a restaurant, a café, and we're going to have an expanded gift shop. So, I think all those things are going to help us look into the future."

And that center - as well as most of the zoo now - can be accessed by over two thousand five hundred feet of wide concrete pathways:

Sharon Matola
"We call it the SHED project, because stroller, handicapped, elderly and disabled friendly, and we hosted Miss Belize a few days ago, and we know that it's high-heels friendly too. So, anybody can go there, and people who have been restricted in the past, can enjoy what Tony's ingenious abilities have provided, which is a pathway. It's user-friendly. Because it's go air pockets so water soaks through it. It's pretty; it's comfortable. It is just wonderful. They handicap access that we are now opening up for the public, it'll be easier for people to come here."

And while the recent facelift to the visitor center and the walkways are impressive, in the long history of the Zoo, these are just more mileposts:

Sharon Matola
"I came here as an animal trainer, but yeah, I had no idea that I was going to start a zoo. You're right. Well, in the beginning, I did it all by myself. I didn't have this large an animal population here. Now, I've got a keeper staff, Belizeans that are very committed and very earnestly involved in the zoo, and they do it all. 30 years ago, there was nothing. 30 years ago, there was person running it for 2 years. That was me. I still feed some of the animals myself because I still train them. I am still an animal trainer, and that's why, you can come into the zoo and get it with Junior Buddy, the jaguar, and get a kiss because I work with them. So We all work together."

Jules Vasquez
"What is the poundage of food that you have to prepare everyday?"

Sharon Matola
"That's a good question. I've never weighed it, but I'll tell you that we have 15 jaguars that we have to feed. They are meat eaters."

It costs over a million dollars a year to keep the zoo running and the animals fed. It has gone from a one woman operation to a staff of 25 and 20 animals in 1982 to 140 animals today:

Sharon Matola
"And some of the rare species in the, a harpy eagle, no many people can go to any zoo and see the harpy eagle, but you can come to the Belize Zoo, and see a harpy, which is quite unusual. We have jaburu storks; we have animals that are not in other zoos, and I didn't have these animals 30 years ago."

And one of the proudest new additions to that crew is Juniour Lucky who was saved from starvation at a resort in southern Belize:

Sharon Matola
"Our beloved Luck Boi, who is going to be introduced to this group today, we saved him with the help of the Forestry Department. He was nearly dead. Not only did we give him a robust condition as far as physically over time, but we are responsible for Lucky Boi losing all his bad habits. He no longer fence bites. He no longer paces. He's a happy cat, and I think that when you see him, you'll see that."

Channel 7

#453410 - 12/13/12 05:42 AM Re: The Belize Zoo Is 30!!! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

How to Feed A Veritable Noah's Ark

And 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.

Jacqueline Godwin,
What do you like about the job?

Antolin Cano,
"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."

Jacqueline Godwin,
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.

Antolin Cano,
"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.

Antolin Cano,
"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 here."

Jacqueline Godwin,
And it is seven days a week?

Antolin Cano,
"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.

Antolin Cano
"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.

Antolin Cano,
"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.

Antolin Cano,
"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...

Channel 7

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.


#453540 - 12/15/12 07:58 AM Re: The Belize Zoo Is 30!!! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Belize Zoo celebrates important milestone

Belize Zoo celebrates anniversary

The Belize Zoo this week celebrated a special milestone. Love TV’s Marion Ali and video journalist Brian Castillo report from La Democracia village.


#454654 - 01/05/13 09:23 AM Re: The Belize Zoo Is 30!!! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline


On 12/12/12 (at 12 noon, of course) The Belize Zoo celebrated its 30th anniversary in grand style. The festivities started with a delicious lunch followed by a brief history of the zoo presented by Founding Director Sharon Matola, a delightful performance of Lucky Boy’s song by the La Democracia Pre-School Gibnuts (featuring lead guitarist Sharon “Keef” Matola), and some thrilling singing, dancing, and drumming by a talented group of Garifuna performers.

After this rousing start, U.S. Ambassador Vinai Thummalapally and area representative, Dolores Balderamos, cut the ribbon to the newly-rejuvenated Gerald Durrell Visitor’s Centre. The Durrell Center now includes “Uppie’s Classroom”, which will be the site of fun-filled educational activities for many of the schoolchildren who visit the zoo.

The Zoo also used this historic occasion to highlight a progressive education effort, the promotion of a book entitled, PAT THE GREAT CAT. Written by students from Belize and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the book features a jaguar named Pat who is a graduate of the zoo’s Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program. Once a cattle killer, Pat now lives happily in the Milwaukee Zoo with his mate, Stella. On the 13th of November, Pat and Stella became the proud parents of two jaguar cubs.

The crowd moved outside to watch as Jerome Flores and his 91-year-old friend who represented the Belize Council for the Aging, cut the ribbon to the stunning new SHED (Stroller-Handicap- Elderly, Disabled) friendly pathways. Several wheelchair users participated in the celebration and it was great to see the huge smiles on their faces as they happily cruised around the zoo throughout the afternoon.

Finally the guests excitedly headed to see the one and only Lucky Boy. This special day was the first time Lucky Boy could be seen by the many fans that had followed the story of his rescue from death’s door, and the now handsome and robust Lucky Boy did not disappoint the crowd in the least. After Hon. Minister Lisel Alamilla and Wildlife Officer Jazmin Ramos cut the ribbon leading to Lucky Boy’s exhibit, he happily trundled over to greet the crowd!

All in all it was amazing day that perfectly illustrated how the “Best Little Zoo in the World” just keeps getting better!


. . . a 30-minute drive from Belize City at Mile 29 on the Western Highway


#454976 - 01/11/13 08:40 AM Re: The Belize Zoo Is 30!!! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Milwaukee Zoo Jaguar Cubs Bring New Genes Into The Endangered Species' Captive Population

Two jaguar cubs are providing more than just cooing fans for Milwaukee's zoo. The spotted brothers are introducing new genes to the endangered species' captive population because unlike most zoo babies, their father was born in the wild.

The blue-eyed cubs, born Nov. 13, don't officially have names just yet, but keepers at the Milwaukee County Zoo are calling them "Gaps" and "Dots," due to the markings on their heads.

Stacey Johnson, coordinator of the jaguar species survival plan for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, said it is rare for zoos' reproductive programs to have access to animals born in the wild.

"They are bringing in a new inflow of genes that will help sustain the population over next 100 years," Johnson said.

He also noted that the cubs – the first born at the zoo since 1975 – are also beneficial because female jaguars currently outnumber males in zoos in North America.

The cubs, currently about the size of house cats, are still too small to navigate their multi-level exhibit, so they aren't yet on display. But fans can catch glimpses of the curious cubs and their mother on the zoo's live webcam.

Zoo officials plan to put the cubs on display by early February.

Their father, Pat, was captured in Central America after being deemed a problem jaguar for attacking cattle, so he was a bit of a celebrity at the Belize Zoo before coming to Milwaukee in 2008. The estimated 15-year-old animal also has a book named after him, "Pat the Great Cat: A Jaguars Journey," which was written by children in Milwaukee and Belize as part of a literacy program.

The cubs were the first for their mother, Stella.

The cubs will remain at the zoo for about a year before being moved to other zoos whose jaguars need genetic diversity, zoo spokeswoman Jennifer Diliberti said. Jaguars are found in the wild in the southern U.S., Mexico, Central America and South America.

The webcam has received about 16,000 hits since it went live Dec. 18. The average time spent on the webcam is about 25 minutes – compared to 2 minutes on their home page, Diliberti said.

"People are really following their story, which is wonderful," she said.

Huffington Post

#460208 - 03/14/13 10:25 AM Re: The Belize Zoo Is 30!!! [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Names picked for zoo's baby jaguars

Stella, the mother, and her cub Zean rest together at the Milwaukee County Zoo during Zean's first day on public exhibit.

Meet B'alam and Zean, the newly named baby jaguars at Milwaukee County Zoo.

One of the names for the 4-month-old cubs was chosen from over 1,300 entries in a public contest, and the other was chosen by schoolchildren in Belize. The name B'alam, the Mayan word for jaguar meaning "great and powerful king," won the public contest, while the students in Belize chose the name Zean, the last few letters of "Belizean."

The Belizean schoolchildren previously co-authored a book with Milwaukee-area students called "Pat the Great Cat, A Jaguar's Journey," that tells the life story of the cubs' father. Pat is a wild-born jaguar from Belize.

The new zoo residents were born Nov. 13, the first litter for parents Stella and Pat and the only jaguars born at the zoo since 1975.

Visitors can see the baby jaguars from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.



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