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[Linked Image]Celso Poot, long time employee and Manager of Operations and Finance will lead the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center as Director. Celso succeeds the Founding Director, Sharon Matola, and will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the zoo and education center.

As the Director, Celso will provide leadership and vision for the institution and will be supported by the existing management team of 9 other members. He has worked in and managed various departments at TBZTEC, since he started working here in 1995. Upon taking on the role of Manager of Operations and Finance in 2008, Celso worked closely with the Founding Director in the growth and evolution of the institution.

"I am so incredibly honored and humbled by the trust placed in me by my colleagues and for the opportunity to lead this very important wildlife conservation institution," Celso said. "I am looking forward to continue working with our team as we strive to carry on the legacy Sharon left us. We are certainly well positioned to do this."

A home grown wildlife conservationist, Celso holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Environmental Science from Galen University and University of Indianapolis, a Master of Arts in Zoology from Miami University's Global Field Program and is currently a PhD candidate in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Florida, in Interdisciplinary Ecology with a concentration in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Celso also spent two stints in the public sector at the Ministry of Agriculture and at the Ministry of Natural Resources. He assumed his new role as Director of TBZTEC today April 26.

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Celso, The New Sharon

There's a new head honcho at the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center. Celso Poot, the former manager of operations and finance, has now been promoted to director, succeeding the late Sharon Matola.

Poot, who has been working at the zoo since 1995, will take over the leadership of the zoo - a job he says he's well prepared for. And even in trying times for the zoo, he has a bright vision for their future. He spoke with us via zoom today.

Celso Poot, Director, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center
"To be honest with you, it's a role that I have been fulfilling for a while now, I have been the operations/finance manager since 2008, I have been responsible for the day to day operation of the Belize Zoo and the Tropical Education Center. As the director of the Belize Zoo, I am now tasked with he responsibility of providing leadership and vision for the zoo as we move forward."

"We continue to struggle financially, not having tourism in the country has really impacted the Belize Zoo and Tropical Center greatly. We get our revenue for operation through sales in the giftshop, through ticket sales, and through group stays over at the tropical education center. Most of these groups are international groups visiting Belize or doing study abroad, semester in Belize or they're doing field courses in Belize and they use the tropical center as their home base. So not having tourism in the country has really impacted us. What has helped us is the generosity and good will of Belizeans who are firm supporters of this zoo so we have gotten donations from Belizeans home and abroad."

"I know what it takes to run the zoo financially, operationally, I have to develop and rekindle some of the relationship we've had with donors, especially those that are abroad, we have to maintain that relationship because a lot of people are committed to seeing the Belize Zoo and Tropical education Center succeed."

"We will keep the legacy that Miss Matola started, that she left us with to carry on, and we will evolve the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center into a center for conservation science, so most people see zoo as recreational or amusement park. The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center is different, we focus heavily on conservation and education and one of the other component of zoos globally is research so what we would want to do is to guide the zoo into that area, into research, where we can help develop policies or management plan for these species that we have on sight and to provide guidance into their conservation into the future."

The zoo is taking donations, whether financially or in the form of food for the animals. They are also encouraging as many Belizeans to visit the zoo and, if possible, to adopt an animal.

Channel 7

Celso Poot is Appointed Director of the Belize Zoo

The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center has a new leader.� He's a familiar face, having spent over two decades with the organization.� His academic studies and experience have prepared him for this career advancement.� Today, we stopped in at the zoo for a chat with the new director about his exciting new role.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Celso Poot is the new director of the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center. Having spent the last twenty-five years at the zoo, and for the past thirteen years he has served as the operations and finance manager. It's a role that's a natural fit for Poot.� But it's also a challenging time as revenues are down by almost eighty percent but Poot says that they will pivot and weather the tough times.

Celso Poot, Director, The Belize Zoo & Tropical Education Center

"In February of 2020, we completed our strategic plan and sadly due to the pandemic we have to revisit that. So, one of the first things I need to do is to look at the strategic plan and look at some of the activities that we had proposed and objectives and see how we can revisit them and look for new direction."

�and as he takes up the mantle to lead the Belize Zoo into a new chapter of leadership, Poot says that future of the zoo will be guided by years of planning with committed people at the helm. And when you visit the zoo, you will be greeted by the same native animals you've come to know and love.

Celso Poot

"We are going to stick with all our natural native animals. Some people are already asking, so are you guys going to bring in exotic animals? Because a lot of people know that Sharon was totally against exotic animals. Don't expect to see any lions or tigers; you will continue to see your jaguar; toucan; scarlet macaw and just the nature of how the zoo goes about housing these animals; injured animals; confiscated animals by the government because they are in small areas and ill-treated; and animals injured on the road and brought to the zoo for care and some of these we release into the wild but the ones who are unable to be released we keep them at the zoo for educational ambassador."

�and research and conservation work will be re-energized under the new leadership at the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center.

Celso Poot

"Then plan is to move the zoo towards a center of conservation science. People see zoo as an amusement park with collection of animal where you come and recreate and rightly so because we do make connection and create bond with these animals when we visit but the role of zoo is now to help more with the conservation of endangered species. So, we at the Belize Zoo began focusing for the last five years on landscape conservation. As we see the forest in Belize, the wildlife habitats are disappearing, more and more the importance of the Belize Zoo and Zoos in general are being recognized because for example, we provide breeding possibility for animals that are critically endangered and this is something that is big in larger zoos where animals are bred and released back into former range and animals that are extinct in the wild they are released back into the wild. So, the zoo can start playing that role here in Belize when it comes to wildlife conservation. So moving the zoo towards a center for conservation science means we will be doing more research; looking at what are some factors influencing some of these species in the wild and what is working towards the protection of these species and what can we do for people to live in harmony with wildlife."

But while Poot's vision for a bold and exciting chapter at the best little zoo take shape, he promises that visitors can look forward to a dynamic experience that brings education and fun at the forefront of the visit. It's built into the principles that will remain to honor founding director Sharon Matola's vision.

Celso Poot

"The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center was built for the Belizean people. To bring the people of Belize closer to the animals, closer to the wildlife of Belize. When people appreciate and learn and understand the roles the animals play in their lives then they will be able to appreciate and care for the protection and conservation of this wildlife and basically that is what the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center is all about."

Channel 5

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Celso Poot - Director of The Belize Zoo on Open Your Eyes

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