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Farewell to Fabulous Zoo Friends

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It seems that it was only yesterday when the Thummalapally’s, Vinai and Barbara, arrived in Belize to head up the USA Embassy.   Their stay here over the past five years saw many positive things happen in our country, and The Belize Zoo has enjoyed a strong friendship with this special couple.

The concern the Thummalapally’s showed towards our nation’s natural resources will be everlasting.   Vinai personally participated in the release of a Harpy eagle in the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area, and was instrumental in seeing that the Mennonite community in nearby Blue Creek embraced the idea of Harpy eagles being restored in that area of Belize.


After Hurricane Richard did a good job destroying TBZ in 2010, Vinai and Barbara spent days assisting us in the laborious duties of zoo clean-up.   And what a difference their assistance made!  Other kind volunteers followed their example, and with a huge amount of team work, we were able to re-open the Best Little Zoo in the World just 44 days after Hurricane Richard’s wrath.


Jaguars were notably a favourite animal of the Thummalapally’s.   “Junior Buddy” received many fun visits from Vinai and Barb, as well as from their relatives and friends.  Barbara took her love for the magnificent cats a step further.  She became engaged in the “Pat the Great Cat” project.   A splendid book about Pat the Cat, a jaguar who was a former member of the zoo’s Rehabilitation Program, and subsequently took up residence in the Milwaukee Zoo, was a key project for Barb.  Working with the Ministry of Education, Peace Corps, and Nancy Kennedy, “Pat the Great Cat”, written in both Spanish and English, has now become a part of Standard 4 curriculum throughout the country.  Jaguar conservation in Belize has been fortified thanks to Barb’s efforts.


Our rescued black jaguar, “Lucky Boy” also gives a huge “paws up” to Vinai and Barbara. When sickly “Lucky Boy” was being kept in the back of the zoo, Vinai brought an old friend of his in for a visit.  His friend was so moved by “Lucky Boy’s” story that he adopted our beloved rescued jaguar, and was the premier movement behind the design and development of Lucky Boy’s present beautiful home.
Vinai and Barb were supportive towards so many of the conservation efforts in Belize.  They often visited our protected areas, proudly sporting their Belize Audubon Society hats.  Vinai has hiked into Chiquibul forest with Friends of Conservation and Development, FCD, in order to get a solid understanding of the problems this forest now faces.


All of us at The Belize Zoo enjoyed every second of time we shared with Vinai and Barb.  What better way to say “Fond Farewell”, than to have such a wonderful duo hosted at the zoo for a “Candle Light Dinner with Mountain Cows”!   Mountain Cow “Indy”, accompanied by his pal, “Bullet Head” were the perfect “official dinner hosts”. 


The Thummalapally’s brought joy and smiles to so many in Belize, and will be missed.   Happy future days to you, Vinai and Barbara!!

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