For many people, a pet is indeed an important part of the family. However, rather than living as family pets, we also have many “street animals”.
In Belize, as well as in other countries, conditions occur which are not on the “kind side” of animal care. When left to breed and run wild, dogs can become an issue of strong concern. It is very sad, that, in Belize, the poisoning of dogs with strychnine, as a “control measure” occurs. This is not just cruel, but also portrays Belize in an extremely poor light. Many times, at The Belize Zoo, we have had guests pass through who have witnessed dead or dying dogs, mainly in Belize City, from this inhumane strategy of “dog control”. Is there an option? Yes. The Hopkins Belize Humane Society, HBHS, closely aligned with The Belize Zoo, promotes spay and neuter clinics throughout Belize. The Belmopan Humane Society also provides free spay and neutering one day each week…Here is the economic question…How much is the government paying to destroy dogs by strychnine poisoning? Why not use those “poison funds” for some honourable issue? And for sensible animal control, employ the strategy of spay and neuter? The personnel willing to assist in order to make this humane option happen, are ready and willing to take on the task.
The Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program, PJRP, is the only one of its kind anywhere. Basically, jaguars who have turned from hunting their usual prey, such as deer, peccary, and armadillo…choosing instead to go after cattle, sheep, dogs and other “should not prey upon” animals, were being shot or poisoned. In 2003, The Belize Zoo introduced a new plan for these doomed cats.
Instead of destroying them, they could be used for research and education. Also, two ex-cattle killers were sent to prominent zoological facilities in the United States. There was a great need for new genetic input in the USA captive populations. Both jaguars have sired cubs. One, “Pat the Cat” became a star! He has a book written about him, and this fun story is printed in both English and Spanish and is used throughout Belize as a reading resource in schools.
Halloween has been a popular family tradition for centuries. Animals have been a part of the festivities for just as long. Spiders, black cats, owls, crows and bats are all well known Halloween icons. With this in mind, TBZ hosted its own spook-tacular event: Boo at the Zoo!
Our popular Barn Owl Ambassador, “ Happy”, had an exciting visit recently to Wesley College in Belize City. Even though it had been quite a while since he visited a Belize City school, “Happy” seemed at home, sitting on his perch in front of the classroom. Perhaps, since Wesley College school uniforms are white, he thought he was with a big group of barn owls!
The program began with an intro to the raptors found in Belize. Students noted that Belize is home to eagles, hawks and owls. All are beautiful birds-of-prey. The question emerged, “Why are barn owls bad luck?”. The Zoo crew was eager to point out that just the opposite is true! Barn owls are critically important to the urban ecology scene. Why? Simply stated, barn owls eat more rats than any other animal on the planet. This translates into a healthier environment for our city residents. Who wants to be living among throngs of Charlie Price? Barn owls feed daily on these vermin, and will also capture and feed rats to their young.
“Hoodwink”, our beautiful Spectacled Owl, will be getting a new and improved home in the near future. Fortunately for all of us here at The Belize Zoo, the exceptional people at the British High Commission, have indicated that they would enjoy assisting with this much-needed renovation.
“Hoodwink the Owl” is a popular star on our night tours. He readily vocalizes and flies to be close to his admirers. But this gorgeous and very valuable education bird really needs more space. “Hoodwink” likes to fly, and our goal is to have his “flight dreams” come true.