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Belize Zoo’s future in question after nearly 40 years open, desperately in need of public support

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Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2020. 9:07 am CST.

By BBN Staff: For 37 years, the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center (Zoo) has been an educational and cultural icon in Belize. The Zoo has been there for the likes of generations of teachers taking their students on school trips and tourists wanting to learn more about Belize’s amazing flora and fauna. But the Zoo has not been immune to the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and now needs Belize to be there for it.

Our newsroom spoke with Founding Director of the Belize Zoo, Sharon Matola, this week and learned that the Zoo has been feeling the impacts of the pandemic since late March to early April. Serious concerns were raised at that time not just for the staff at the Zoo, but also the safety of the animals after the staff learned that thousands of animals bred in captivity in other countries had to be euthanized following positive COVID-19 tests.

She noted that currently the Zoo is open by appointment only as the situation with the pandemic remains very much uncertain.

“Right now nothing is predictable. We’re not sure what we’re going to I don’t think we’re going to be able to keep the Zoo open. I think the greatest achievement that we can look at is harnessing food for the animals to keep them okay,” Matola said.

She noted that the zoo “easily” has 125 animals, which includes 25 jaguars that are housed as a part of the Zoo’s jaguar rescue programme. Currently, the animals are being fed purely from donations made from generous individuals and businesses such as meat shops, and stressed that every little bit helps.

“People have been ultra kind, donating mangoes, chicken, meats from the meat shops,” Matola added. “If we didn’t have that I honestly don’t know where we would be headed; I really don’t, that’s how serious this is.”

The Zoo also has staff considerations to make in the height of the downturn as there are some animals, such as the harpy eagle, which require special attention and other animals that need to be continuously trained in preparation for the eventual reopening. Matola says that there is a pending meeting to discuss the way forward with her staff, and while no decisions have been made as yet, one consideration is to have them come in solely to feed the animals and then head home.

Those interested in assisting the Belize Zoo to ensure that it remains open for future generations to enjoy can call 822-8000 to coordinate what type of donation they’d like to make and the best way to get it to the Zoo.

Breaking Belize News encourages all Belizeans, where possible in these trying economic times, to offer their support to the Belize Zoo.

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