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The Rescue of Edgar Hill!

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An urgent telephone call came recently from the Belize Forest Department’s Edgar Correa.  And it shook the Animal Management team at the Zoo into quick action.   He called the Zoo to report that a jaguar was caught in a trap within the Mennonite village of Pine Hill, way south in the Toledo District.  Apparently, the cat was appearing more and more frequently nearby the homes of villagers.  A Pine Hill village member told Mr. Correa that one day, the jaguar appeared to be about to attack his horse and buggy!  All were frightened of this misbehaving jaguar. “If you cannot take this jaguar into your Jaguar Rehabilitation program, we will euthanize it”, sadly stated Edgar. 

The Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program at TBZ, beginning ten years ago under the direction of Zoo Director Sharon Matola, has proven to be a milestone program for jaguar conservation.  While unable to be released back into the wild, due to their various disabilities, the jaguars entering into the program are worked with daily and become extremely valuable animals for research and education.  One Rehab graduate, Fieldmaster, regularly strides onto zoo grounds to meet and greet visitors, and will happily give a  “high five”.   What a treat for visiting schoolchildren!   Field researchers studying the cats in the wild, have used the facility to compare notes and test out new camera equipment  or to test other research techniques on our resident  Jaguar Rehab members.

Without hesitation, Sharon and crew gave a hearty “We will take this jaguar” response to Edgar Correa, and then the journey began.  The travel time to Pine Hill proved to be difficult.  The recent rains made the roads difficult to negotiate.  No time for a flat tire!  Upon arrival to the trap site, Mr. Levi Friesen and fellow Pine Hill villagers showed the rescue crew their spotted captive.  He was safely hunkered down in the trap.  Not wasting time, the rescue crew transferred the problem jaguar into the carry cage which would take him to his new home at The Belize Zoo.

The zoo upholds strict protocol when transferring a wild caught jaguar.  First, never is tranquilization used.  Putting harsh drugs in an animal already under severe stress could easily lead to death.  Next, transport is always done after the heat of the day.  High temperatures could also contribute to an unfortunate transfer incident.  No chances are taken, valuable cargo aboard!

In the cover of darkness, as night approached, the zoo team brought the jaguar to his new home within the rehabilitation area, off exhibit, at The Belize Zoo.  Yes, he is a male.  Age?  We figure less than five years old.  A noticeable eye disfiguration may have contributed to his taking on a problem jaguar profile in the wild.  He was covered in ticks.  His nose was a bit bruised.  And the days that followed his arrival immediately addressed this jaguar’s health issues.

Zoo Director and Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation founder, Sharon, began spending time with the new arrival.  Her opinion on the fellow:  Very smart!  Very alert!  He was especially aware of other jaguar vocalizations, and seemed to know that he had “brothers” nearby.

He needed a name!  It is the tradition for the zoo to name their animals to recall their origins.  Edgar Correa from Panthera/Forest Department played a significant role in the “saving process”.  Edgar!  It was then suggested that he have a surname, as well.  “Hill” was added in order to recall the village where he was trapped.  Welcome to The Belize Zoo, Edgar Hill!  You have bright days ahead of you and a big “Paws Up” to the Belize Forest Department, Panthera, and the Belize Wildlife Conservation Network for their vital support and input.

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