A Black Cat That's Nothing But Good Luck

Over the last few days, we've been telling you about the black jaguar, Lucky Boy, who was rescued from a rundown resort by the Belize Zoo.

Today, we visited him in person to check up on his progress.

We found a black cat, who's been nothing but good luck...

Daniel Ortiz Reporting

The black jaguar, Bosh - now named Lucky Boy - is in good health, showing signs of improvement, with his playful and energetic attitude to being fed.

It's a complete turn-around in behaviour from the first day at zoo, when he was quiet and reserved in a far corner of his cage. He now has the company of the staff at the Belize Zoo, and he even has his own song.

But it wasn't such easy-going when Lucky Boy was discovered in his extreme distress. The zoo staff described his health condition as the worst they've had to deal with.

Humberto Wohlers - Animal Management Supervisor, Belize Zoo
"We heard about it. We were contacted by the Forestry Department, and we moved immediately to the cite. Find a different situation, not very prepared when you go the first time, we started brainstorming how to best transport a very emaciated jaguar."

So, they had the difficult task of transporting the jaguar, which was in poor health. They had to get it into a crate and transport it without using tranquillizers.

Humberto Wohler
"Normally, animals would take a little while to be crate-trained and any additional things in their environment change their behavior. So, we know that crate-training would be the best way - the safest way. We didn't think any more about anesthesia, just crate-training this jaguar, and having the jaguar confident in that box."

They eventually got it in the crate after several hours of coaxing and they transported it to zoo, where they started feeding it to improve it's health.

Sharon Matola - Director, Belize Zoo
"I'm really proud of my staff. It's really hard to crate train an animal even if you have an unlimited amount of time, and they did it in less than a day. So, I was astounded at that. Then, it came up here, and it was the thinest, most emaciated jaguar I've ever seen. We've gotten 14 jaguars in our rehab program. He's the worst conditioned jaguar. After you finished feeling really bad for him, you have to get to work, and get him up to score. It's just been a great thing in my life because every day, you see a steady improvement. He is just an amazingly intelligent animal. He responds to positive reinforcement. We've had jaguars come in here that it takes weeks to get them to settle down. They'll rush the fence; they'll bite at the fence. They're mad; they're angry. He was confused, and he did stay in the corner for a while, and just kind of - like any of us I think would have. 'I don't know where I am. I don't know what I did to deserve this.'"

While working with Lucky Boy, the staff discovered it was suffering from another medical condition.

Humberto Wohler
"So, once the animal got safely here at the zoo, we started to slowly feeding jaguar with a special diet. We had a group of vet students, led by Dr. Isabel, and they conducted some fecal analysis for the animals, and most importantly for Luck Boy. We found out that he has hookworm, and he's going to be treated for that too."

The staff immediately started working on getting Lucky Boi used to life at the zoo, but they were pleasantly surprised that he was a smart animal, who showed signs of good treatment at his former home, even if the former owners fell on hard times.

Sharon Matola
"So, what you do is you spend a lot of time. It's time investment, feeding him - he has his own song. He knows his name is Lucky Boi. In 3 days, he learned to do a high-five. The boy is smart, and I also like to say that I'm not really sure of the conditions that he was kept in. I've never been to the resort, but he wasn't mistreated. A cat with that personality has a background of being well cared for, so I don't know what happened along the way. All I know is that we're going to get him 100% healthy. We'll gently introduce him to Springfield and CT over time. There's a way that you can do that. We would be under the advice of someone who's done that a great amount of time in his history, working with big cats. I don't perceive any problems."

Daniel Ortiz
"Will his permanent home be at the Belize Zoo?"

Sharon Matola

Lucky Boy will remain in the quarantine section of the Zoo, until he returns to full health. 7News will return on that day to see him join the general animal population at the facility.

Channel 7

Lucky Boy aka Bosch rescued from Ballum Na Lodge now safe and recovering at the Belize Zoo; photo by The Belize Zoo

The sad story of Bosch, the emaciated black jaguar that had been found starving and left abandoned at the Ballum Na Lodge in Punta Gorda has taken a happy turn after the heroic and caring efforts of a coalition of environmental organizations that came to his rescue and are now helping him to recuperate.

Hearts were saddened and angered when word came out of the jaguar that had been left for dead in a cage after irrational and possibly illegal circumstances led to those who were responsible for his care abandoning him without concern for his wellbeing or safety. It was only after Wil Maheia, a member of the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network, alerted everyone to the jaguar’s plight that Bosch’s condition became known. Immediately, a coordinated and dedicated team consisting of the Belize Zoo, the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network, and the Belize Forest Department came together to provide food, vitamins and supplements to prevent further deterioration in Bosch’s condition and help to keep him alive until a proper veterinary assessment could be conducted. On July 20th, rangers and volunteers from the Belize Zoo and the Forest Department successfully rescued Bosch and transferred him to his new home and the Zoo.

Bosch, who has been fondly renamed ‘Lucky Boy’ is now living comfortably at the Belize Zoo under the cautious and attentive hands of qualified and caring professionals who are slowly nursing him back to full health and providing the necessary love and attention he deserves. On the Belize Zoo’s Facebook Page they’ve commented that “Lucky Boy’s eating like a champ, and interacting enthusiastically with his caregivers. A surprisingly calm and easy going jaguar, a special diet and tender love and care are all he wanted. He’s definitely on his way back to being healthy and beautiful once more.” Lucky Boy is believed to be about 11 – 12 years old and according to the Zoo originated from Xcaret Zoo in Mexico. The Zoo keepers say that although it will take a number of months for Lucky Boy a.k.a. Bosch to make a full recovery and come back to full health they do believe that he will certainly return to his full majesty and beauty over time.

At this point it is uncertain exactly just how many people will be charged for the crimes of negligence and neglect that led to the jaguar’s severe health and condition, however, representatives from the Forest Department and Wildlife Conservation Network have indicated that they are seeking charges against the owner of the lodge, and anyone who played a role in allowing Lucky Boy to deteriorate to the state he had been in will be held accountable to the full extent. Forest Officer in the Wildlife and Law Program of the Belize Forest Department, Rasheda M. Garcia, has stated that “the animals were clearly neglected and the responsibility for their care and management squarely falls on the owner of the lodge. Therefore the department holds him responsible and will be pressing charges against him.

In a statement posted on Facebook in response to Lucky Boy’s dilemma Kenneth Karas, the Managing Director of Belize Lodge and Excursions (Ballum Na Lodge’s parent company), laid the blame for the condition of the jaguar on the shoulders of the manager who was left in charge, accusing the unnamed person of misusing the funds provided to him for the care and feeding of the animals. Karas said that when his resort closed operations at the end of May as is usually the case, staff were left to care for the animals. Karas claims that the manager was provided with a weekly budget for feeding the animals and that as far as he knew the animals were being taken care of. Karas went on to say that this arrangement has been the norm over the last ten years, with the manager sending him weekly reports, however the manager neglected to inform him of the health issues or that they were not being fed. The Belize Lodge and Excursions boss, in his online statement, said that he only learned of the condition of the animals at Ballum Na on Saturday, when one of the company’s former employees contacted him. The release from Kenneth Karas ends by saying, “I deeply regret what has happened and we are currently working with the Forestry Department and a vet to stabilize the animal and move it to the Belize Zoo.

According to as yet unconfirmed reports, the lodge, which is actually a group of several different jungle and island lodges on more than 13,000 acres in Toledo, is believed to never have been successful as a tourism business. Allegations are that the establishment recently ran into financial problems and reportedly let most of its employees go, with the jaguars and other animals, including monkeys and birds, apparently left unattended and in captivity. There have also been reports that at least 28 employees of the lodge from Indian Creek village, along with employees from other Maya villages in the area have said that they had not been paid by the lodge in from two months to as much as a year.

Belize Lodge and Excursions has an address in Washington, DC that appears to be a drop box at a law firm. Apparently the lodge had permits to keep the jaguars at the lodge, which they claim were born in captivity, however this raises some questions as to what permits were in hand to allow them to keep jaguars on site since the pet permit application available for download at the Belize Forestry Department’s very own website clearly states that Jaguars fall under ‘Category 2: Felines’ of “Animals that cannot be held as pets”, along with other felines which are the Mountain Lions a.k.a. Pumas or Cougars, Ocelots, Margays and Jaguarundi. Not surprisingly the company website has since been taken down.

The San Pedro Sun will follow the developments of this story and provide further details about those responsible and any charges that would come as a result of the complete and utter neglect of Lucky Boy and the other animals that they were to be taking care of.

You can follow Lucky Boy’s progress on the Belize Zoo’s Facebook Page as they have promised to regularly post updates and photos of his recovery and progress on his way back to full health.

San Pedro Sun