Baby jaguar "Hero" at the Belize Zoo, on March 10 2015
JAGUARS IN JEOPARDY!
Belize has a reputation for caring and guarding over our remaining jaguar populations. The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is known internationally as a refuge for the mighty Jaguar. The Central Belize Corridor, a swath of land which connects the forests of our northern regions, to those forests further south, is credited for providing a “jungle highway” for roaming jaguars.
However, there is a bleak side to the jaguar world in our country. Too often, a Jaguar will be killed, and have its canine teeth extracted. Why? There are people in Belize who will turn the teeth into a piece of jewelry. An endangered animal dies, and a few dollars exchanges hands.
Recently, a jaguar cub, less than three months old, was brought to the Zoo. Where’s Mom? Most likely she was killed. Why? Very likely for the sad reason outlined above. This ugly situation, unfortunately, happens more often than just a casual “now and again”.
Come on, Belize! It's time to walk the walk! If we are a nation promoting “Jaguars Forever”, then we must gear our profile and our actions to fully support our stand. The cub pictured here is newly-acquired “Hero”. The Belize Zoo will see that “Hero” stands as a symbol to all about this unfortunate and cruel AND needless activity. People who come to The Belize Zoo wearing a Jaguar canine necklace are NOT allowed entry. The Zoo has developed and distributed posters t spread awareness about the problem countrywide. However, what Belize needs is stronger efforts and more voices aimed at seeing that this illegal activity ceases completely. If Belize is to be taken seriously in its stewardship profile over the greatest cat in the Americas, then a change MUST happen.
U.S. Embassy Belize: Ambassador Moreno met with Sharon Matola at the Belize Zoo and a two-month old baby jaguar named Hero
Hero was rescued by the Belize Zoo. Isn’t he the cutest baby jaguar ever?
The Jaguar is the largest and most powerful cat in the Western Hemisphere, and the third largest of the roaring cats (Panthera). They are found throughout Belize in the lowland forests and along the coasts. Adult jaguars are solitary and only come together for a short time to breed. The size of a jaguars territory depends on food availability. In a forest such as the Cockscomb Basin, a jaguar will roam over a territory of about 20 square kilometers.
Jaguars hunt mainly on the ground and mainly at night. Its food consists of everything from mice to birds to tapir. Across it's range in the Americas, the Jaguar has been known to hunt 87 species of prey, sometimes including tapirs and crocodiles! Its favorite prey items in Belize include armadillos, pacas, and peccaries. Unlike other wildcats, the Jaguars prefer to kill prey with a single bite to the skull; they posses the most powerful jaws of all the big cats.
Jaguars once lived throughout the Americas, from Arizona to the north to Argentina in the south. But hunting and deforestation has reduced their numbers and forced them out of their habitat into interaction with man. Belize has one of the healthiest populations in Central America, and the Jaguar is protected from hunting throughout Belize.
Like leopards, jaguars may also be born with melanistic (black) coats, though the rosette patterns are still visible below. These cats are commonly referred to as "panthers," but do not differ from normal jaguars in species.
Update on Hero: 3/23/2015
The Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program, PJRP, located off-site at the zoo, provides an important sanctuary for jaguars who have no future in the wild. Enclosures are roomy, and the rescued jaguars receive enrichment training on a regular basis. Ice blocks made of chicken blood (yum!) are considered a real treat by the cats. Boxes are a feline favourite, too!
Hero the cub currently has a small log to climb in his day quarters. He is also fond of his very own feather, donated by “ Boomer”, our jabiru stork.
As Hero grows, he will stand as an example of a jaguar who should have grown up in the forest, not in captivity.
In the mean time, the Zoo is continuing its efforts in jaguar conservation education, and will reinforce efforts specifically in the Central Belize Corridor. Respecting our protected areas where jaguars still roam, becoming aware of the need and purpose for maintaining the integrity of the Central Belize Corridor, which jaguars use, and eliminating the entire jaguar canine tooth jewellery industry will all contribute to efforts aimed at seeing that jaguars will be in Belize for our future generations.
Photographs courtesy Sharon Matola
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