Years ago our Belize Adventure Week tour used to include a trip to the Belize Zoo. I do not generally like zoos, but the Belize Zoo is wonderful. It was started as a home for wild animals that had been used in making documentary films, and after the filming was over, the animals were unable to be returned to the wild. The zoo’s creators soon realized that Belizeans were unfamiliar with their native animals and they decided to develop a wildlife education center, with a goal of decreasing poaching by educating all Belizeans about the wonders of their native wildlife. The zoo exhibits over 125 native animals. None are captured for the zoo, all were orphaned, born at the zoo, or rehabilitated pets. The enclosures are large, natural pens.

IMHO, the star of the zoo is a tapir named April. She was my favorite 15 years ago when I used to visit the zoo all of the time, and I was pleased the other day to find this short clip of her by my new favorite videographer, Stacy Holbert. The tapir, known as the “mountain cow ” in Belize, are forest dwellers, active mostly at night as they forage along river banks and forest clearings. We have spotted wild tapir twice on our jungle trips in Belize. They have a nose like an elephant’s truck, and when April wants to be fed, she is CUTE. See for yourself:

If you wish to visit the zoo, it’s only about 45 minutes from Belize City. It’s kind of expensive to get in ($15), but remember your entrance fee makes it possible for them to let Belizean school children in for free! You can also visit the website of the Belize Zoo for more information.

We have many recommendations of what to do in Belize before or after your island trip with us. It might not occur to you to visit a zoo when you’re on a tropical vacation, but if you have extra time while in the country of Belize, a visit to the internationally famous Belize Zoo is well worth the trip. There you can see many native species, including the jaguar, the king of the jungle.

The zoo was started as a home for wild animals that had been used in making documentary films. The zoo’s creators soon realized that Belizeans were unfamiliar with their native animals and they decided to develop a wildlife education center. The zoo exhibits over 125 native animals, all were orphaned, born at the zoo, or rehabilitated pets. The enclosures are large, natural pens.

Many of the animals that are native to Belize are nocturnal, so a visit to the zoo may be the only way to see them. The zoo is located about 30 miles west of Belize City. Busses pass by regularly, and if you are comfortable standing by the side of the road waiting for the next bus on the return (as the locals do), this is the cheapest way to go. You may also take a Belize cab and ask the driver to wait for you (would probably cost $60 or so). or make a day of it and rent a car, visiting both Xunantunich ruins (west of San Ignacio) and the zoo (get an early start). Don’t miss lunch at Cheers, across the highway and down the road a little from the zoo.

And on a side note,  this morning, the zoo posted on their Facebook page that their 2 year-old tapir (the national animal of Belize), Tambo, is going to be the star of a children’s book . Here you see Tambo gracing their xmas card.