Widely known as the “Best little Zoo in the World,” and set on 29 acres of land in a jungle setting in Belize, this little zoo is a unique stop that you do not want to pass up!
Their start-up story is fascinating! In 1983 a documentary was filmed in Belize called the ‘Path of the Rain Gods’. There were seventeen native animals taken from the wild for the movie and Sharon Matola, a former biologist, lion tamer and US Air Force person, was hired to care for them.
After the filming ended, these animals were too tame to be placed back in their natural habitat, and as there was no zoo in Belize at the time, Sharon came up with the idea of a zoo as a new home for these seventeen animals.
Many Belizeans had no knowledge of the many beautiful native animals that called this land home, so it was the perfect opportunity to begin educating locals and tourists alike!
Many of the animals in Belize Zoo are rescue cases: wild animals that were kept as pets by individual collectors who no longer cared for them or were saved from poor conditions.
The zoo makes every attempt to recondition these animals for a return to the wild, but only when such a return is feasible. In cases where living in the wild is impossible (as is the case with most of the zoo’s jungle cats, who have long since forgotten how to hunt, or never learned in the first place), they remain in the zoo under the loving care of Sharon and her crew.
The zoo has many animals you’re unlikely to see elsewhere – there are two fat tapirs (a Belizean relative of the rhino), gibnuts, a number of coatimundi (they look like a cross between a raccoon and a monkey), scarlet macaws, white-lipped peccaries, pumas and many more beautiful creatures.
But what really sets Belize Zoo apart is the zoo itself! The enclosures here allow the animals to live in as natural a setting as possible, comparable to how they would live in the wild.
And a highlight for visitors: the types of interaction that you’re able to have with the animals is second to none! Among the critters you’ll see wandering the grounds are Central American agouti (also called bush rabbits), huge iguanas, snakes, raccoons, squirrels and jungle birds of all the colors of the rainbow!
You can even have a once-in-a-lifetime jaguar encounter (totally safe of course!) where you hand feed Junior, a young jaguar rescue and star of the zoo!
The Belize Zoo receives no funds for operating from the government. Undoubtedly, a large reason for it’s continued success is the support from zoo members and visitors. In fact, some of their biggest benefactors are heavy hitters like Harrison Ford and Melissa Mathison. Every dollar received goes directly into fueling this important conservation and education facility, zoo operations, education and animal management.
Major support is also received from:
- The Forest Department/Ministry of Natural Resources, Belize
- The ZOO in Gulf Breeze, Florida
- Milwaukee Zoological Society
- Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa, Florida
- The Philadelphia Zoo
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- Jaguar Conservation Trust
- The Armand G. Erpf Fund
- Maria Norbury Trust
- Wildlife Trust
With the help of these benefactors, the zoo developed a rehabilitation program so that a happier life could be offered to rescued jaguars. After their rehabilitation, and with the co-operation of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the jaguar is then transferred to a new “forever home” in a zoo in North America.
Visiting the zoo in certainly an experience you’ll never forget! Not only will your entry fee go to helping these beautiful animals live a better life, but you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime!
Right off the road between Ka’ana and Belize City, this is an easy stopover to make on your way to or from the airport. Book your animal encounter with us today and guarantee your wildlife experience!