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The Belize Zoo is a BRIGHT SPOT!

alt“Bright Spots” is what delegates forming the Caribbean Leadership Project, were visiting during their program time in Belize.  This was the title which referred to successful and dynamic projects in Belize.  The Belize Zoo was recommended and the recommendation came from the highest of high authorities in Belmopan.

We were honoured and also, eager, to share the zoo and the zoo story, with everyone involved.  The program focuses upon supporting the leadership and economic development training needs of regional and national public sectors in twelve CARICOM countries.

The Belize Zoo was part of their module, “Serving our People and Country and Region”, and was keen to look at personal leadership approaches in order to receive powerfully positive results.

Delegates who visited the zoo for our special presentation came from  Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, St. Lucia, and yes, Belize! The history of the zoo was well-received by all.  Founding Zoo director Sharon Matola, recalled how she came to Belize in 1982 to work as an assistant  in a wildlife film documentary.  The job was to be for three months.  However, when that particular film project came to an end, she found herself with a few animals but no guaranteed future for them.

In order to try and bring in the funds necessary to feed the collection, she thought that starting a zoo would be the answer for these beasts-in-need.  What was her previous zoo experience?  None.   And as she explained to the delegates, “I was clueless about what the little zoo effort  meant until a very old man appeared at the zoo gate one day in the late afternoon”.    Even though she was tired, since she, alone, was running the little zoo,  Sharon let the senior citizen in to view the animals.  He showed total surprise as they toured the zoo together.  But in front of the two jaguars,  who were rolling and playing in the late-afternoon sunlight, he broke down and cried.   Puzzled, Sharon  asked , “What was wrong? “ His answer, “I’m really sorry miss.  But I’ve lived in Belize my entire life and this is the first time I’ve seen the animals of my country”.

That isolated incident cemented a strong commitment in her .   She was determined to see that the little chicken wire cage facility become a major wildlife education center.    And while The Belize Zoo story is one of dedication, commitment and amazing achievement,  Sharon stressed that she could not have accomplished this alone.  Her zoo staff, all Belizean, share the commitment and the principles that were established as the platform for The Belize Zoo thirty years ago.  Zoo friends and stellar assistance was also provided by folks who no longer live in Belize, but who hold our country close in their hearts.

A good time was had by all!  And a zoo tour and “meet and greet” with American Crocodile, “Rose”, added to the joy of the morning.  A True “Bright Spot”, we are!

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