Saturday, March 21, 2015

Belize Zoo - Lions and Tigers and Bears, "Oh No!"

If you are looking for cages filled with animals from Africa, Asia or the Antarctica, you had better reset your course for San Diego.    However, if you find yourself in Belize I would encourage you to seek out the Belize Zoo.  It advertises itself as the “Best Little Zoo in the World”.  Whether that’s true or not, the claim is certainly not without merit.

Located just north of Belize City, the facility is easy accessible.  Housed within the confines of a rain forest, it’s easy for the visitor to feel like they are on an expedition.  The grounds span across 29 acres encased under the tropical canopy.  Well groomed dirt paths lead you to the ticket office where once a ticket is purchased you are allowed to enter into the local menagerie.
Exotic animals abound, over a 150 in total, all indigenous to Belize.    Brightly colored reptiles and amphibians are showcased along with their more camouflaged kin.   Blue frogs and red hued snakes lurk silently behind glass, while crocodiles lay almost lifeless in pools of water.  Information is given to the viewer that new species are still being discovered annually.
With 543 species of birds living in Belize the zoo only houses a small sample of its population.  For me the giant black vulture was memorable, and who can visit a jungle without thinking of the toucan.  

As for the mammals, the large cats are definitely must sees.  Ocelots to jaguars are showcased.  I learned that a black panther was just the latter with a pigmentation disorder.  Tapirs and Howler monkeys may be less dangerous, but no less exotic.  It’s quickly apparent on how close you can actually get to the animals.  Although secure, tourists’ views are not hampered by moats or other large separation obstacles.

There are several paths that you can follow, all wind and meander throughout the establishment.  It is impossible to get lost, but it is easy to pass by exhibits if you are not careful.  Maps are provided and I would strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of them. 

Although it is easy enough to view the zoo in one day, lodging is available at the park.  Three types of hospitality are offered.  The top, a single cabin priced at $84 dollars, $60 dollars will get you a mid level cabana, and for those on a budget, dormitory housing is available for just over $30 a night.
The zoo provides a glimpse into the animals and fauna that abound in Belize.  Arguments can be made for or against the morality of such establishments.  However, here in the dense jungles of Central America, it would be virtually impossible to spot even one of these secretive, illusive animals.  In its favor, the zoo provides education and exhibits on the importance of conservation.  A central theme is that if we were all more attentive and practiced better conservation methods, perhaps zoos would not be necessary.

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