Throughout the years, many animals at the Belize Zoo, including the now deceased April the tapir, celebrated their birthdays to much fanfare from animal lovers across the country. Junior Buddy, the progeny of a problem cat who was committed to the zoo’s rehab program a few years ago, celebrated his seventh birthday in grand fashion. The festivities complete with students converging on the zoo grounds to enjoy the sights and sounds. News Five’s Duane Moody was on hand for the party.
Junior Buddy was borne of Springfield, a problem jaguar that entered the rehab program at the Belize Zoo for preying upon sheep in the Pine Hill area. That was several years ago and today; Junior Buddy celebrated his seventh birthday.
Sharon Matola, Founding Director, Belize Zoo
“This is the big day; it is Junior Buddy’s seventh birthday and we have over a hundred kids. They all sang the song, they all knew the words, I can’t believe it. They made me sing it four times, but that’s okay. Now they get to give him his birthday bone and he gets happy. It is just a day of celebration for jaguars which is important. We’re very proud that they are still here in Belize and events like this see that they are more preserved in the future because when you get the kids to love them, they are not going to be kids forever. They are going to be old farts like me…I mean old folks like me and when they are older and when they have kids, they will teach their kids that jaguars are ultra cool and have a place to live here like we do.”
Joining in the celebration were over a hundred primary school students. They shared their experience and knowledge of jaguars.
Larson Woodye, Student, St. Agnes Anglican School
“He reacted in a nice way. When he sees people, I feel like he is more comfortable around people.”
“Tell me one thing that you know about jaguars that you’ve learnt?”
“That jaguars can smell from a far distance and they do not get along with a lot of tigers and jaguars.”
Danicia Guerra, Student, St. Agnes Anglican School
“I had a lot of fun especially seeing junior and his mother. It was great and I hope I could come back very soon to see him again—not only for his birthday, but some other time.”
“Tell us about what you enjoyed the most about the event?”
“What I enjoyed the most was seeing him eat his food; when he jumped. I had never seen an animal jump so high before. So it was great.”
Lenroy Woodye, Student, St. Agnes Anglican School
“I experience to see Junior Buddy and some other animals that I have never seen before and it was very nice.”
“Is this your first time to the zoo?”
“Jaguars, what do you know about them?”
“They are very vicious when they are mating. They mark their territory; they scratch on trees or they pee on their territory and other jaguars don’t really go close to their territory.”
“What is it that you are going to take away from today’s event that you can share with your family, with your friends?”
“Telling them about junior and how he reacted. The way how he treat people; the way how he moves around and just walking around and he poses when it’s time to take picture…he stays at one spot. So I think that is the part that I will share with them.”
There are currently four jaguars on the zoo grounds with ten others in the problem jaguar area of the Belize Zoo. All were problem jaguars except for Lucky Boy, who was rescued from down south and of course Junior Buddy.
“It’s an every day job. We train them to get use to us so they equate people with fun, people with good things, people with rewards and that way our visitors, especially the school kids, get to see them and they are amazed. It is a really nice situation and our job is to keep the animals people friendly.”
Duane Moody for News Five.
…while Edgar Hill, to be used for research studies
Another jaguar, Edgar Hill, was caught in a trap within the Mennonite village of Pine Hill, in the Toledo District. The predator cat had attacked a horse and buggy and was taken into the Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program at the Belize Zoo. Well today, Founding Director of the Zoo and environmentalist, Sharon Matola, spoke about the progress on Edgar Hill. She says that the he will be used for research studies.
Sharon Matola, Founding Director, Belize Zoo
“Big change…you saw the change. He is now out on the run rolling around like a playful cat, which he is. And he’ll jump at us which is a playful type of behavior because he knows we have treats for him, but he is obviously enjoying his life. We did find out that he is blind in his right eye after a medical exam which probably explains why he was a problem jaguar. But he is one of the cats that are being used for research studies now. So he went from having a very bleak future to having a nice life in captivity where he is leading a joyful life, but also contributing to the scientific world about jaguar ecology. So it is a happy, happy story.”
Belize currently has the best population of jaguars in Central America with the count at approximately eight hundred. Fourteen of them are currently at the Zoo.