Belize is a country full of wildlife but sometimes it is hard to see some of the more spectacular species. They are so shy, they run away from humans. For example, the rain-forest mammals of Belize tend to be very secretive and mostly nocturnal. This makes them extremely difficult to be seen. They usually see, hear, or smell you long before you know they are nearby. So if you want to enjoy an amazing day surrounded by all of the most amazing native animals of Belize, you can’t miss the opportunity to visit the special Belize Zoo.

Animals at the Belize Zoo
Coatimundi, Margay, American Crocodile and Jaguarundi

First of all I have to say that I don’t like regular zoos but this zoo is different. The Belize Zoo was started in 1983, as a last ditch effort to provide a home for a collection of wild animals which had been used in the making of documentary films about tropical forests. The zoo also has a Tropical Education Center which believes that by bringing the people of Belize closer to the native wildlife of their country they will feel proud, and be more aware of the need to protect their environment for future generations.

Junior the Jaguar
Junior the Jaguar

Today, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center spans across 29 acres of tropical savanna and exhibits over 170 animals, representing over 45 different species, all native to Belize. The Zoo keeps animals which were orphaned, rescued, rehabilitated, born at the zoo or sent to The Belize Zoo as donations from other zoological institutions.

Now you can see why this Zoo is so unique!

Here you will have the opportunity to see one of the most awesome animal in the world, the super famous Jaguar and another 4 species of wild cats like Jaguarundis, Margays, Pumas and Ocelots. You can also come up close to some special and rare birds like the Harpy Eagle, that has hind talons and can be as large as those of a grizzly bear. The gigantic Jabiru, one of the largest birds in the New World. The Jabiru stands 5 feet tall and has a wingspan of 8 feet. Its heavy bill is about 12 inches long and perfectly designed to catch fish, frogs and snakes. The largest number of jabirus counted in Belize is 24. Duarte and I were so lucky that we had the opportunity to see one wild Jabiru in Lamanai at the northwest of the country. It was just amazing to see such a big bird flying over our us!

Harpy Eagle Belize Zoo
A Harpy Eagle

But the greatest thing of this Zoo is that you can interact with some of the animals!!

Maybe you didn’t hear about the Tapir, but I have to say that after my first encounter with this funny and cool animal it became one of my favorites. The Tapir is a mammal known as the “mountain cow” in Belize, it’s a mix between a rhino and a horse. One of the most peculiar animals I´ve ever seen! And it is the national animal of Belize.

Fuego Tapir Belize Zoo
I almost kissed Fuego! So cute!

Upon our arrival to the Zoo we had arranged an encounter with the tapirs to feed them. I was so excited because I have never seen one face to face… This first encounter was unbelievable! The guide gave us some carrots to nourish Fuego, one of the Tapirs that lives there. He was rescued from a fire in the forest that’s why they called him Fuego, Fire in Spanish. When he saw us with the carrots, he came to us so confident and relaxed. When we started feeding him we could touch his soft skin. It was great to see how he closed his eyes with every single bite of the carrots we were giving him.

Tapir Feeding Belize Zoo
Duarte feeding Fuego! Look at Fuego’s eyes, he liked it!

I left the best for last… Our visit with Junior, one of the rescued Jaguars of the Zoo. We had the opportunity to touch him, feed him and even be licked by him! I will show you the photos, because this experience is difficult to explain in words. When we fed him with pieces of meat that the guides gave us, we could see the potent jaws of this animal. His saliva was falling on us while he was waiting for the food with his enormous mouth open, but we didn’t care. It was really scary and impressive!

Jaguar Feeding Belize Zoo
Here I am feeding Junior!

Duarte had the opportunity to be just a few centimeters of the mouth of this strong wild cat, when Junior licked his forehead with his rough and large tongue. I couldn’t believe it! Jaguars are simply amazing. They are one of the most beautiful and powerful animals I have ever seen. It is our responsibility to protect them and their environment. At the Belize Zoo, I learnt a lot about the Belizean Wildlife and what we can do to help protect their natural habitat. It is an institution that helps the animals and teaches people about how to protect our planet. It should be a role model for other zoos around the world.

Thank you for providing us with such an unbelievable day!

Belize Zoo licked by Jaguar
Duarte being licked by Junior!