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The Belize Zoo's "Other Side"


Many visitors to the “Best Little Zoo in the World” stay at our fun and rustic Zoo Lodge.  The Lodge, known as the Tropical Education Center (TEC) is set on 84 acres of beautiful pine savanna habitat.  And, yes, there is far more there than just comfortable accommodations for our guests!

A trail system winds throughout the property, and plants, as well as specific “mini-habitats,” are labeled for quick and easy identification. Many of Belize’s endemic plant species are only found in savanna habitat, and the TEC savanna is no exception!

There are viewing platforms in various parts of the pine forest, too.  An early morning bird walk may yield exciting sightings of over 220 species of our beautiful Belize bird life, including woodpeckers, parrots, tanagers, and many others! Now and again, mammals are seen scampering down pathways.  Recently, a pair of Greater Grisons was observed.   This relative of the weasel and otter is a very rare sight to behold!   Agoutis, or “bush rabbits”, are an often-seen species in the mornings, too.  

Thanks to the diligent work of Dr. Betsy Mallory, the TEC savanna trail system has blossomed and taken on its own “personality”.   Boardwalks invite hikers to step over the grasslands, and when the weather is wet, these pine walkways provide a dry path, too. Recently, a group of students from North Carolina State University had the opportunity to assist Betsy in some much needed “trail care.” Trail upkeep is a must when exposed to the elements of the savanna, and the students did an excellent job under Betsy’s expert guidance.

Betsy has a long and productive history in Belize.  She was one of the first scientists to explore the Bladen Nature Reserve, and her ornithology work in Rio Bravo is well-known among “bird people.”  Because of her formidable knowledge and passion in sharing what she knows with others, quite a few Belizean scientists and natural history tour guides have polished bird and plant identification skills.   

There is a growing interest in fire ecology involving savanna ecosystems, and Betsy has included this element of natural history into her pathway development. Many look at a pine savanna and do not see the productive ecosystem there.  Here is an interesting fact.  Most of the biological productivity in this interesting landscape occurs underground! This is an adaptation to surviving the natural fires that occur in this challenging habitat.

A visit to the TEC, The Belize Zoo’s “other side”, is guaranteed to please!   Fun hikes, alluring nature, and fine dining is also part of the Tropical Education Center profile.  TBZ thanks Dr. Betsy Mallory for her amazing contributions over the years. 

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