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Jaguars in Jeopardy! 


Belize has a reputation for caring and guarding over our remaining Jaguar populations.  The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is known internationally as a refuge for the mighty Jaguar. The Central Belize Wildlife Corridor, a swath of land which connects the forests of our northern regions, to those forests further south, is credited for providing a “jungle highway” for roaming Jaguars.

At The Belize Zoo, the beauty of a Jaguar can easily be appreciated. Jaguar, Junior Buddy loves to have visitors, and Lucky Boy, our stunning black Jaguar, seems very happy to have admirers, too.  However, there is a bleak side to the Jaguar world in our country. Too often, a Jaguar will be shot, and the crime is done for one reason.   Kill the jaguar,  extract the canine teeth. Why? This illegal and cruel action  supports a sinister activity. There are people in Belize who will turn the canine teeth of an Endangered Jaguar into a piece of jewelry. A precious animal dies, a declining population of Jaguars is further harmed, and a few dollars exchanges hands because of this inhumane and cruel practice.

People who come to The Belize Zoo wearing a Jaguar canine necklace are not allowed entry.  The Education Department at the zoo has developed and distributed posters which cite the problem.   However, what Belize needs is a country-wide change of attitude aimed at seeing that this unfair activity ceases completely.  While it may be officially “illegal”, to own and wear a Jaguar canine tooth necklace, no one is ever fined or arrested for this offensive behavior.  If Belize is to be taken seriously in its stewardship profile over the greatest cat in the Americas, then a change must happen. 

How brazen is this “jewelry show?”  At the tourist village, a Belizean man, dressed in jungle garb and dancing around the streets, sports a Jaguar canine necklace.  Isn’t that a nice first impression for visitors! A further worrying facet:  What if a demand grows from people who see someone wearing this artifact, and then would like one for themselves?

Recently, The Belize Zoo was given a very young Jaguar.  Less than three months old, the little cat should still be with its mother.  Where’s Mom?  Most likely she was killed.  Why?  Very likely for the sad reason outlined in this article. This ugly situation, unfortunately, happens more often than just a casual “now and again”.

Come on, Belize. Its time to walk the talk. If we are a nation promoting “Jaguars Forever”, then we must gear our profile and our actions to fully support our stand.  Allowing this illegal and cruel trade to persist knocks the credibility of our nation’s  “Save the Jaguar” image.  The young Jaguar pictured above is newly-acquired “Hero”.   The Belize Zoo will see that “Hero” stands as a symbol to all about this unfortunate and cruel AND needless activity.   


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