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Thinking Out Of The Box

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At The Belize Zoo, a strong policy is maintained, that the animals under our care, will not be left to live a life clouded with boredom or stress.  Each animal has a unique story, circumstances which make it impossible for them to live their lives in the wild. So! The zoo has provided a “last resort” for many species of our native wildlife.  We have returned animals back into the wild when it is appropriate, but when situations dictate that a “captive care” environment is the only safe and practical option , the zoo opens the window of opportunity to make good “animal assisted living” possible.

The monkeys and the coatis all have climbing areas.  Boy George, the pelican, practices his “fish catching” skills daily.  Rhaburn the young ocelot has his own “jungle gym”. However, a big challenge we face in environmental enrichment, (the “official” term for this type of animal management), is how to maintain a happy and content group of jaguars.  The Belize Zoo Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program has rescued thirteen jaguars from various areas of Belize. The nature of this beast is complex.  Out of the four species of large cats, including leopards, lions and tigers, the mighty jaguar has the largest brain for its body weight.  This is one extremely aware and intelligent big cat!  

Different behavior strategies are used to see that our jaguars are kept occupied and interested.   All have plenty of room to stride about and climb.  We provide “blood ideals” for them, which are frozen chicken blood in blocks and oh, how they love these treats!  The jaguars that go through the Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program learn simple behavioural tricks.  Training these big, smart cats to give a “high five”, and to roll over, are two commonly employed behavioural enrichment strategies.   Many of our zoo visitors have stood inches away from gorgeous black jaguar, Lucky Boy, and watched as he puts up his paw in a friendly “high five” greeting.   We have also learned that cats like boxes! Many of our strong cardboard boxes become “jaguar joy toys”.  And what fun to see these rescued big cats having a good time, playing “out of the box”.

At The Belize Zoo, we take the responsibility of providing a good home for our animals seriously. It has been noted that our content and happy animals provide a pleasant encounter for Belize Zoo guests.   Becoming well-acquainted with the wildlife which shares their country will, we hope, lead to a greater feeling of respect and admiration for these special animals.  Hopefully, too, this will foster a sincere desire to see that their wild counterparts, living in the forests of Belize, are protected for future generations.


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