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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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It's a jungle out there, but the zoo is ready for visitors once again

On October twenty-fourth the Belize Zoo suffered major infrastructural damage to much of the structures and trees when Hurricane Richard ripped directly over its path. It took more than a month of constant work to rebuild and reshape the facility and today, amidst much fanfare, it re-opened with a whole new look. Well, Junior Buddy and April the Tapir were giving visitors a warm welcome today and according to Zoo Director, Sharon Matola and Zoo contributor, Richard Foster, the repairs have worked out for the better.

Sharon Matola, Zoo Director

Sharon Matola

"It's a big change for the people that work here and for the animals that live here and call this their comfort zone. When you change the furniture which is what we did with the help of Hurricane Richard, you change the outlook of the animals that have come grown to know a certain place to be a certain place. Are they getting use to it? Every day is better. Every day is a new emerging day where the zoo is growing up a little more; the animals are getting use to the environment a little better and the people who are visiting today for the very first time since we've been closed for a month like it so I think we are doing ok. The renovations are innovative. For instance, Marion we lost a hugely big Guanacaste tree, nineteen year old tree. Instead of dragging it out, chopping it out, we have made an exhibit out of it to show people what a category one hurricane is capable of doing. And if that tree saves one person's home or maybe a life, then I say the zoo's purpose is even degrees more important that I thought it could be."

Richard Foster, Zoo Contributor

Richard Foster

"When that hurricane came, Hurricane Richard, it was heart breaking, really heartbreaking to see what it did. All the big trees that had grown up and the beauty of the zoo was just destroyed but I tell you it didn't put Sharon off and those guys worked like crazy over the last month. The catastrophe has attracted some funds so some things will be done better than they were before. I believe everybody has had some kind of shakeup and the zoo is gonna become more vital. It is amazing what can come out of disaster if you really will it and I think that is what is what's happening there at the zoo."

Admission fee at the zoo is five dollars for adults and two dollars for children. Students and teachers on school trips pay a dollar per person.

Channel 5

Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,398
Marty Offline OP
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It has been described as the World's Best Little Zoo. Home of the country's national animal, the tapir and Junior Buddy, the Jaguar. Safe to say, the most popular destination for thousands of Belize's young students and tourists alike. And so on that fateful day when tragedy struck on October 17th, and Category One Hurricane Richard wreaked havoc on some of the country's iconic institutions, the World's Best Little Zoo was not spared! Richard's wrath crippled the Zoo and left its infrastructure in almost complete devastation. Now, only 44 days after the fact, its been anything but short of a miracle, the Belize Zoo officially reopened its doors today to visitors, and Jim McFadzean was there.

It was the drumming in of a new era for what's come to be known as the World's best little Zoo.

Sharon Mattola, Director, Belize Zoo
"No one is going to criticize what's here now it's a very innovative approach to the zoo it's very new. There are very many different aspects and added elements to the zoo, am I satisfied? I am still in shock."

In shock for very good reasons, only a little more than a month and a half after untangling the web of destruction caused by Hurricane Richard, the iconic attraction was officially reopened to the public by ITS founding Director, Sharon Mattola.

Sharon Mattola, Director, Belize Zoo
"I am still in shock about what happen and I am still warm inside about the amount of unity that happen, the amount of dedication, the amount of pull togetherness from the people that work here to make this happen. It has been without a doubt the most extraordinary time in my life."

And while it's not back on its feet 100 percent yet, the Belize Zoo has already made great strides at rebuilding, as is reflected in the new habitats for some of its most popular residents.

Sharon Mattola, Director, Belize Zoo
"What we concentrated on were the major attractions, they harpy eagle exhibit still needs some work but we made some repairs. As you can see the king vulture exhibit which was totally reshuffled, dismembered by Hurricane Richard, the scarlet macaws; those 2 main exhibits have been redone. The jaguar exhibit was not viewable, we had to redo that, the harpy eagle, the jaguar, the scarlet macaw, the tapirs, the animals that people really want to see."

Monumental structures like this Guanacaste tree downed by the destructive force of Hurricane Richard remain embedded in the new and invigorative look being carved out of the devastation. The symbolism though of how quickly the Zoo was able to get back on its feet was not lost on those who got a first peak today at the extraordinary work.

Senator Omar Figueroa, Conservation Biologist
"I am very impress actually not only are they bouncing back but bouncing back stronger that they were before so it's very encouraging to see what they have, just taking advantages of what they had, a tree fell and now you build a platform on top of that tree just a constant reminder that the storm came and hit us down but it didn't knock out the guys at the zoo so I am very encourage to come here and to see the zoo coming back stronger."

Desi Figueroa, Visitor
"We got to see a lot of defects of the hurricane still there and we got a good look at it, they have done a wonderful job in rebuilding, it seems to have taken a super human effort to rebuild."

Marge Gallagher, Visitor
"It's much lighter; I think it's miraculous what they have done with the cages. I visited here a lot and I saw how many big trees there were and how many big trees are down and the fact that it's all clean up is amazing. I think one good thing is to see how quickly a place like this can recover, it's amazing what the staff has done and the fact that the animals all survive and seem happy to have people back seeing them is amazing."

Meanwhile, as the BDF air wing saluted the historic occasion with a fly pass, the country's top diplomats along with Belize's first lady and Zoo officials, reveled in dancing to the beats of the Ugundani group of drummers.

Sharon Mattola, Director, Belize Zoo
"Rebuilding a zoo is a very expensive project but the zoo is very necessary, it's a beloved institution here and we are determine to get this place up and running."

"And so, coming out of one of its darkest moments, the emergence of a new and brighter future for the Worlds' Best Little Zoo", Reporting for Seven News, I'm Jim McFadzean.

If you would like to help in the Zoo's renovation efforts, donations can be made by logging on to the Belize Zoo's website, at

Channel 7

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