From Lan Sluder of BelizeFirst.com....
What I can't understand is why nobody has done anything about the jaguars before. Surely everybody in official positions or in tourism in Toledo knew about the jaguars.
I met Ken Karas in late 2008 (think it was December), and he personally showed me the jaguars, which at that time were kept in a cage. My daughter was with me and was very upset, as I was, by the conditions in which these beautiful animals were kept. The cage was small, with a concrete floor and steel bars, nothing like the conditions for jaguars at the Belize Zoo.
I wrote about it then (including mentioning it on this listserve) and since and have advised numerous people to avoid the BLE lodges in Toledo.
I later pulled Belize Lodge & Expeditions from Fodor's Belize and from other guides I've done. I couldn't recommend a place like that, even though the BLE lodges were very nice.
The whole Belize Lodge & Expedition operation in my opinion has been weird from the beginning. The managers I met were not like most other tourism operators in Belize -- they were secretive and unfriendly.
I understand that a prominent Belizean company pulled out of its original deal with BLE several years ago, losing a large amount of money.
This is what I wrote in "Rambles Around Belize 2008" after visiting Belize Lodge & Excursions and meeting Ken Karas in January 2008. I posted this on my website (www.belizefirst.com
), on a couple of Belize forums (and also here on this listserve, I believe). I also published this as a Kindle booklet on Amazon.com:
By the way, it is my understanding that Ken Karas is NOT the owner (as stated on one of Brian's links) but is a "representative" of the owners ... not been able to confirm that either way, however.
In late January, I also stopped at Indian Creek Lodge and met Ken Karas, who runs this and the other Belize Lodge and Excursions’ three lodges in Toledo. That’s another story, but Mr. Karas did show me Balaam Na, which means “House of the Jaguar” in K'etchi Maya. It is about a 10-minute drive from Indian Creek. Balaam Na has attractive, upscale suites in a lodge that is built over a fenced enclosure where, I was told, two jaguars would be placed. The idea is that guests can look down from their suites or the raised walkway and see the jaguars. When I was there construction was still going on in at least one of the suites. Supposedly, according to the web site, this place has been open for a while, but it obviously wasn't open when I visited.
When we finished the Balaam Na tour Ken Karas asked if my daughter and I wanted to see the two jaguars. We said yes. The jaguars, beautiful young males, one black and one spotted, are being kept in a small cage at Indian Creek Lodge. So far as I can see, they have no place to exercise, no way to be out in the open. Now, I understand the idea is that at some point they will be put in the fenced enclosure at Balaam Na. When I don't know. But even to be kept in such a cage for a few weeks or few months -- I have no idea how long they've been in there, but it hasn't been just a few days -- is disturbing.