“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Since having kids, we have visited plenty of zoos. Honestly this is the reason why originally I had not planned on stopping at the one in Belize too. I could not find a day that would work well with our traveling plans. Plus I figured that we had seen plenty anyway, one extra would not have made a bit difference.
However after listening to more than 5 locals telling me that it was absolutely a “must see”, I changed things up and of course made it work!
What is so special about this zoo?
Don’t expect some big fancy zoo with animals from all over the world. Don’t even expect many animal shows that fill your time here. Belize Zoo, is a little zoo populated only by animals that live in Belize and it can easily be visited in 1 or 2 hours.
The zoo exhibits over 175 animals representing over 45 native species. Here you will find animals that were orphaned, rescued, born at the zoo, rehabilitated animals, or sent here as donations from other zoological institutions. The Belize Zoo wants to educate visitors, both local as well as foreigners about the wildlife of Belize through encountering the animals in their natural habitat.
How did it start?
In 1983, cinematographer Richard Foster’s film making team went to Belize to create the documentary “Selva Verde“. Sharon Matola accompanied the crew as an assistant and animal caretaker. At the end of filming, since the funds were limited, they didn’t know what to do with the tamed animals. Of course releasing them into the wild was out of the question. So Matola remained with the 17 animals (an ocelot, a puma, a jaguar and several exotic birds), and started a “backyard zoo”, using the animals’ enclosures as exhibits, to generate funding for their care.
Since the Belizean were very unfamiliar with the native animals of their country and had many misconceptions and superstitions about them. The zoo’s focus turned towards educating residents and visitors alike about the native wildlife of Belize. Thanks to local support and local and foreign donations, the zoo was relocated to its present site in 1991.
The Belize Zoo is a non-governmental, non-profit organization focused on wildlife conservation through wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education.
Our adventure at the zoo
Our time at the zoo was truly memorable. First of all because we got to see so many Tapirs and they were so big! We had seen street signs, days before but had never had a chance to actually come face to face with one!
Spider monkeys showed up for us as well, they followed us through the trees. Luca was so excited every time he saw one, specially when they were hopping from branch to branch!!!!
Throughout the zoo there are signs explaining more about every animal. Their names, their stories and in some cases how they have been rescued. This gives you the opportunity to know them on a more personal level.
The only other time I had the same feeling was when we visited the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project in Thailand. This is a place where they aren’t simply parading animals around for the sole purpose of getting a profit out of it, but rather healing and rescuing them so they can have a second chance.
The people who work at the zoo are all extremely friendly and willing to help. They caught Luca more than once as he was sneaking in places where he shouldn’t have, but they were always very kind and understanding with him. They respected and we amused by his excitement in seeing all this wildlife!
While we were there we had a pretty adventurous moment with a crocodile too. He was at the far end of the little lake and we were looking at him. At one point we hear a great splash, Luca threw his milk bottle in the water! One of the zoo people came up to us right away and offered to get it. We didn’t even have the time to tell him not to worry, that he had already jumped in the gated area very fast. He was able to get out of the water just a few seconds before the crocodile reached him! Oh my gosh that was one of the scariest moments I ever experienced, those animals are so fast!
This was a great experience for us and our kids. A visit at the Belize Zoo is a great way of learning more about the animals of Belize. Most of all helped us understand the importance of protecting the environments they live in, we absolutely recommend it!!!!
Click here to see more of our posts from our travels in Belize!!!
Check out the lovely hotel we stayed at Jungle Jeanies by the Sea!!!