A message from the Director of the Belize Zoo
A message from the Belize Zoo & Tropical Education Center
After over two long and challenging pandemic years, 2022 saw the return of some normalcy in all walks of life here at the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center. It was such a delight to hear the chatter and excitement of Belizean school-children once again in the Zoo. We continued to welcome back international and local visitors alike both at the Zoo and over at the Tropical Education Center.
The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center continue to serve as the country’s oldest wildlife rehabilitation center. As per usual, there were several wildlife intakes and releases during 2022. Our philosophy is that Belizean wildlife should be wild and free, thus, any intake that can be rehabilitated is put back into the wild. However, some animals arrive at a very young age and become imprinted and remain as educational ambassadors for their species. Two such critters are “Neo” the Neotropical River Otter and “Branchy” the Prehensile-tailed Porcupine. Branchy is already working his charm, and dispelling the myth that porcupines can “spray you with their quills from a distance”. Neo remains off public viewing, but we are planning to have his debut in early 2023.
Saving wildlife and protecting their habitats is core to our mission, but so is the Zoo’s impact on people. We continue to expand our work in landscape conservation. Our work in the Maya Forest Corridor continued as we engaged with stakeholders in fire management practices to improve community and public health while protecting ecosystem integrity. With the support of the Government of Belize, we dedicated more than 2,600 acres of land as Belize’s newest protected area; the Sharon Matola Wildlife Sanctuary honors the work of our Founding Director, Sharon Matola.
The Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceño unveiled a commemorative plaque recognizing Sharon’s contribution to wildlife conservation in Belize. This plaque is strategically placed in the breezeway at the entrance to Belize Zoo for everyone to read during their visit.
Just as we were ending the year and getting ready for a brighter 2023, we were reminded of the stark reality of climate change! In early November Hurricane Lisa battered Belize City, and the eye of the storm passed just north of TBZTEC knocking down animal habitats, uprooting trees, and breaking infrastructure…bringing our work to a complete halt. All 50 animal habitats were affected by the storm and 20% of our habitats sustained major damage, meaning they sustained structural damage or other significant damage that requires extensive repairs. After more than six weeks of closure for cleaning, repairs, and rebuilding, we finally reopened our gates to visitors in mid-December. What a year of highs and lows!
One thing that remains constant through the years is your unwavering support of our work. I am always indebted to the many people and organizations contributing to The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center’s success. We value our responsibility of helping to foster a meaningful and inspiring connection between wildlife and people, and our ability to bounce back every time with continued success is attributed to people like you. We couldn’t do this important work without you. In this season of giving, and as 2022 comes to a close, I just want to let you know how much we appreciate your consistent support and the bright light you shine in our world.
Message from Celso A. Poot
Director of the Belize Zoo & Tropical Education Center