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La vida loca! Wished you were there? We did, so here we are on our big adventure! A year in central America, to make sense of this vida loca...

Sleepy Time at Belize Zoo

BELIZE | Sunday, 1 February 2009 | Views [1773]

Its a hard life being a Coatimundi.  Nothing to do but doze with a friend and growl at any approaching racoons.

Its a hard life being a Coatimundi. Nothing to do but doze with a friend and growl at any approaching racoons.

Trundling by chicken bus towards Belize City, we took some time out to visit Belize Zoo conveniently located next to the highway. The zoo and associated Tropical Education Centre was established in 1983, to quote the blurb, “as a last ditch effort to provide a home for a collection of wild animals which had been used in making documentary films about tropical forests”. The zoo director is an animal trainer. Zoos aren´t generally Dan´s thing, I´m a bit more partial, but this one had a good write-up. After seeing a very sad affair in Panama City (in what was supposed to be the Botanical Gardens) we were heartened when people who´d been to Belize Zoo said you actually have to look for the animals! So off we went.

And nearly didn´t make it. The bus conductor, having agreed to let us know when to get off, promptly forgot again. Luckily we spotted the signs and yelled to the driver "Stop!". Half a mile later and loaded with our gear we stopped at the ticket booth, bought our tickets and left our bags in the gift shop. We had arrived just before lunch, but soon realised that it was in reality the animal´s siesta time! In almost every enclosure the occupants were enjoying a snooze.

An ocelot takes it easy above... as do white tipped peccaries below...

And we don´t know how this margay managed to sleep and keep it´s balance at the same time!

We spent the next hour or so following the trails between the leafy enclosures. There were plenty of places for the birds and animals to hide, each with the right kind of habitats for them to express their natural behaviours. All the animals here are native to Belize and have either been orphaned, rescued, rehabilitated or bred in captivity. Jaguars that would otherwise have been shot for killing cattle are captured and brought here to be re-educated. The only downside is that they are not released back into the wild. 

Junior (a 1-year old male jaguar) was rejected by his mother who was captured in this way. Raised by the zoo staff, he´s even been trained by the director to do tricks. He was not only awake (just!), but also very photogenic. We thought he looked like a big cuddly toy, but I wouldn´t want to get in the cage with him!

Junior, the zoo mascot, poses for the camera

There are all sorts of arguments for and against zoos. It´s especially hard to justify caging animals that are used to roaming over huge distances or birds like the harpy eagle which are made to soar in wide open spaces. For us, Belize Zoo was the only place where we could see all the creatures indigenous to this beautiful country. It´s difficult if not impossible to see most of them in the wild. Not that that really matters in the scheme of things. What´s really important about this particular zoo is that it´s doing a great job teaching the folk of Belize to be proud of their natural heritage and why it´s important to conserve it.   

This toucan was also awake and posed nicely too!

To see more photos clic here: http://journals.worldnomads.com/rachel_and_daniel/gallery/15599.aspx

Moving along, we spent a couple of days in Belize City, the ex-capital and biggest town.  We stayed with a rather lovely lady called Mrs.Griffiths, who had two daughters in the UK.  Considering this is the biggest town in the country, it still came across as very parochial.  The main department store had a mishmash of stuff from carpets to plastic flowers.  Half the building plots near the sea hadn´t been rebuilt on since the last big hurricane.  A few grand clapboard buildings remain, showing some faded grandeur of old colonial days.

Restaurants were few and far between, cafés even rarer - we spent the first night wandering around the streets looking for a restaurant that wasn´t there any more, then got a taxi who took us to the restaurant that was closed, then took us to another and charged us four times the going rate.  We then didn´t have enougth on us to eat a meal in said restaurant, so had to walk back along the sea-front, in the rain, until we found a nice (if bizarre) little café owned by a taiwanese couple.  Luckily this turned out to be a few minutes away from our guest house.  Of course, we weren´t supposed to be wandering around Belize City at all, as it hasn´t got a very good reputation.  Eh well.  Before we got the water taxi to Caye Caulker a taxi driver said ´yeah, I seen you walking around´, obviously most visitors don´t.

The swing bridge (built in Liverpool) is where its at, with the so called ´tourist village´ built next door, where boat loads of cruise ship inmates get off to drink expensive cocktails and buy overpriced nicknacks.  Offshore, their charges lurk like squat dreadnoughts.  We got the heck out.

Tags: belize city, belize zoo, sleepy animals

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