Belize can proudly boast being home to 9 species of those wonderfully charismatic birds: the parrots. Parrots are renowned for being “nature’s gardeners.” Their important role as seed predators and dispersers help keep our forest ecosystems balanced and healthy. They are also a very important part of ecotourism. Thousands of bird fans come to our country every year hoping to see these feathered beauties in the wild.
Parrots have been around for millions of years, and have evolved to become as intelligent, adaptable, and social as many primate species. Sadly, after millions of years of existence, many parrot populations have dropped dramatically in just a few short decades. This is due to habitat loss and the pet trade, and even Belize has felt the throes of this troubling decline.
As the New Year starts, we welcome 2016 and are ready to begin our new exciting programs and projects at The Belize Zoo.
Wildlife awareness and education, as ever, play the key role in our upcoming plans. Barn Owl Ambassador, “Happy” is getting ready to visit schools in Belize City. Our largest urban center is an important habitat grounds for Barn Owls. Sadly , these beautiful birds-of-prey are often killed in Belize City. Why? They are falsely believed to be “The bird of evil and misery”. As a result, they are cruelly treated. Why in the world should we “pick on” a bird that eats more rats and mice than ANY OTHER animal on the planet? That is the primary message Happy the Owl will take to schools in 2016.
Bird was definitely the word as we celebrated Panama the Harpy Eagle’s 12th birthday recently. Smart raptors like Panama have excellent memories, so, every year, it’s our job to make sure the party is different and even better than the last. We certainly earned the birthday boy’s approval this year!
There were many new faces among the party celebrators. And they all earned their spot on the VIP guest list! Leading up to the big day, 1st form students from Wesley College in Belize City received an in-class visit from the Zoo’s Education team, accompanied by Happy the Barn Owl. Happy and his friends taught students and teachers all about the importance of raptors to Belize. Barn Owls were of particular interest, as they call Belize City home, too! Who else is going to dine on delicious rats? Barn Owls keep Charlie Price under control.
Recently, two very sad events happened in Belize City. At The Belize Zoo, we were informed that a Barn Owl, somehow trapped in a small building, was needing rescue. The zoo crew was ready to leave and assist the “Owl at Risk”, and see that this situation had a happy ending….Unfortunately, word got out about this Barn Owl, and before the hour was up, the Barn Owl was beaten to death. Not only a beautiful bird gone from our urban ecology scene, but a vitally important bird who contributes to keeping the city in a healthy natural state? How? Barn Owls eat MOUNTAINS of Charlie Price!!! They have a very undeserved reputation of being “the bird of evil and misery”. Nothing could be further from the truth. To add to the bad news, Barn Owls mate for life. It is very likely that the gone-forever Barn Owl left behind a mate, an owl who has had its natural behavior distorted and confused.
The film crew recently visiting Belize for a TV series called “ Mad Dogs”, paid a visit to The Belize Zoo as part of their filming agenda. They wanted to obtain film footage of a tapir in order to add “local colour” to their adventure series,” Mad Dogs”. Indy the Tapir was ready and willing to be a film star for this production. And what a star he was! The requests from the Director and cameraman had Indy the tapir’s companion and trainer holding back laughter…”Could you get him to turn more perpendicular and not keep his rear-end to the side?” Could you get him to walk four steps closer to the camera, stop, and look straight into the lens?” Here is the fun scoop on the above…Indy the Tapir did all of that and more! And what is the secret of his filming talents? Cecropia Leaf (trumpet tree) smeared in peanut butter! It was clear to his companion that all and anything was possible from Indy the tapir as long as there was a “four-star” treat for a reward.