The Belize Zoo today celebrated two important milestones in its conservation effort. Junior Buddy the Jaguar is celebrating his sixth birthday and Panama the Harpy Eagle is celebrating its tenth birthday. To mark the occasion, officials of the Zoo invited primary school children to join in the celebration, while at the same time learn more about the contribution of these apex predators to the health of the forest.
Students from the nearby La Democracia Pre-School and the Infant Two class from the Howard Smith Nazarene School in Benque Viejo del Carmen were special invited guests for today’s Predator Party at the Zoo. Environmental Educator Jamal Andrewin- Bohn took time out to share information on wildlife conservation with the children and a special treat for the children was an opportunity for an up close encounter with Lucky Boy, the rescued black jaguar which has been nursed back to good health.
And while Oceana celebrated the seas, there was a very wild celebration on the mainland. Our camera friendly buddies at the Belize Zoo were gyrating to the sound of the voices of preschoolers from La Democracia on Wednesday morning. The singing group called “The Gibnuts” regaled Junior Buddy, the ambassador Jaguar and Panama, the Harpee Eagle with a traditional birthday song. Buddy turns six while Panama is ten. Preschoolers and primary school children from nearby communities joined in the dual celebration at the Belize Zoo and so did News Five’s Carla Bradley.
Carla Bradley, Reporting
Over a hundred school children showed up for the birthday parties of Buddy, the Ambassador Jaguar, as well as for Panama, the Harpee Eagle. Founding Director of the Belize Zoo, Sharon Matola says animals are important to our natural resources.
Sharon Matola, Founding Director of the Belize Zoo
“Well we are celebrating the birthday of two top predators: Panama, the Harpee Eagle and of course Junior Buddy, our Ambassador Jaguar, and the idea is to get the kids understanding the important role that these animals play in our forests and also basically we want them to walk away having fallen in love with the Harpee Eagle and with Jaguar because we want them to be proud of their natural resources. And that’s what the zoo is all about. But these events amplify that focus and everybody has a good time and I think they talk about it a long time after this and it makes a great impact on them.”
The Education Department assisted with the planning of the celebration and gave presentations to the children. Playing the part of Justicia, the Jaguar, an education representative explained to the children the importance of the Wildlife Corridor.
Jamal Andrewin, Environmental Educator
“The birthday parties for the animals, April, Junior, Panama and Panama’s birthday is usually in November but because we were planning for our big event we were having in December poor Panama got neglected which he wasn’t happy with so we decided to make Junior’s birthday which is always in February into a top predator party. As Junior and Panama both represent apex predators in the forest, we decided to make it one and just one big part.”
But Junior Buddy is also joined by another jaguar. There is the famous Lucky Boy who was rescued from a resort in the south of the country six months ago and others.
“Well we have “Lucky Boy” the black jaguar who you will meet and we have two spotted jaguars next door and Junior Buddy and then in the back in rehab we got eleven more cats. So these are cats that are rehab, they are cattle killers, sheep killers, dog killers and they go under behavioral training and now they are people friendly cats that can be used for education and research. That’s a program that’s unique in the world.”
Belize is well known for the jaguar preserve and that keeps the zoo’s personnel occupied year round.
“Well the jaguar population needs help that’s what we are all about. We need to bring about a consolidated awareness to everyone that hey guess what: number one, don’t buy jaguar tooth necklaces, because a cat has to die for your necklace. That’s a paramount thing that we try to convey to our public. Number two; let’s leave some forest standing its good for that awful thing call climate change and it’s also good for the animals that need that forest.”
Lucky Boy got in the party mood and acknowledged the presence of the children with high five’s. Hope, the Eagle, also joined in the celebrations. Reporting for News Five, Carla Bradley.
Harpee eagles are found in the Bladen Reserve and according to Matola, the southern communities have been doing a wonderful job in keeping these animals protected. Matola believes that Belize still stands as an example to other countries.