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Belize Zoo Director to Speak Here Nov.13
SUNY Cortland News
Released: 11/1/2007

Sharon Matola, director of the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center and an internationally renowned conservation biologist, will discuss the zoo in the context of the broader SUNY Cortland-Belize Project on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Matola's talk, titled "International Education and International Partnerships in Action: The Belize Zoo Project," begins at 7:30 p.m. in the College's Brockway Hall Jacobus Lounge.

Presented as the keynote lecture during SUNY Cortland's International Education Week events from Nov. 12-16, the talk is free and open to the public.

The presentation will be followed by a performance of SUNY Cortland's Rock and Blues Ensemble under the direction of Steven Barnes, with donations accepted to benefit the Belize Zoo.

One of the premier conservation organizations operating in Belize, the Belize Zoo receives no government funding. Created under the auspices of the existing Cortland-Belize Partnership, the Belize Zoo Project has been founded on the SUNY Cortland campus to help further develop the zoo.

SUNY Cortland Professor of Political Science Thomas Pasquarello is the campus liaison. Supported by students, faculty and friends in the community, the project provides SUNY Cortland students and community members with opportunities to complete internships and do other kinds of meaningful volunteer work at the zoo.

"In American higher education today, there are many voices calling on American universities and colleagues to play a partnership role with countries in the process of development and transition," observed Distinguished Service Professor Henry Steck, an organizer of the International Education Week programs. "SUNY Cortland faculty and staff have a long history with Belize - a country that is close, English-speaking, democratic and governed by the rule of law. In her lecture, Ms. Matola will link our work for the zoo to the broader SUNY Cortland mission of internationalizing the campus and developing a close partnership with Belize."

A native of Baltimore, Md., Matola grew up having little direct experience with nature but an early interest in animals. After serving in the U.S. Air Force and performing as a lion tamer in a Mexican circus, she came to Belize, the former British Honduras in Central America, in 1982. She took a temporary job as a film assistant to documentary filmmaker Richard Foster, who needed someone to manage the small collection of wild animals he used for his wildlife films.

When filmmaking ended, there were no funds to support the animals while Foster went to Borneo to complete another documentary there. Left in charge but with instructions from the United Kingdom parent film company to "get rid of the animals," Matola decided to use the creatures to start Belize's first modest zoo.

The zoo was an immediate hit because most residents of Belize knew very little about the country's flora and fauna. Myths about wildlife abounded. Over the past two decades, the zoo has become world-famous, in particular, for its focus on the restoration of the Harpy eagle species, the Central American Scarlet macaw, and jaguar habitat restoration. Matola is known for her work with the Scarlet macaw and tapirs.

Matola has also been a vocal advocate for species and habitat preservation.

The lecture and concert are sponsored by the Political Science Department, the James M. Clark Center for International Education, the Political Science Association, the International Programs Office and the Biology Club. For more information about the lecture or benefit concert, contact Pasquarello at (607) 753-5772 or [email protected].

For more information about International Education Week events, which will include lectures from a global perspective, musical performances of the world and meals featuring the cuisine of different countries, contact Steck at (607) 753-4807.

Live and let live
Joined: Dec 2006
Posts: 13,675
She has also, through all her efforts, done tons for the Belize avian world and help create a large birdwatchers market for Belize tourism.

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