Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Tropical conservation in action: High voltage programs to save endangered wildlife in Belize, Central America

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Sharon Matola, Ph.D.
The Belize Zoo & Tropical Education Center 

Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Pacific Forum 3:00 p.m.

Sharon Matola came to Belize, Central America over 20 years ago to work on documentary films about tropical wildlife. This resulted in her starting a zoo, the only zoo in Belize, from this modest animal menagerie. Having no zoo experience, she managed to develop the facility into what is known today as the "Best Little Zoo in the World". 

The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center has become a platform for launching critically important conservation programs. The Jaguar Rehabilitation Program is pioneer work, taking livestock-killing jaguars and rehabituating them for a life in captivity. There, in American Zoo and Aquarium Association approved facilities, they will become education symbols for their counterparts in the wild, as well as bringing much-needed genes into the captive Jaguar population in North America.

Working in conjunction with The Peregrine Fund/Panama, The Belize Zoo is striving to restore the magnificent Harpy Eagle back into the forests of Belize. Since January, five eagles, captive-bred and released, now call Belize their home. A dynamic education program reinforces this conservation work and without a doubt, the Harpy Eagle, considered to be extinct in most of Central America, now faces a bright future in the tropical forest landscape of Belize.

Sharon Matola will illustrate the zoo's beginnings and exciting developments by a colorful powerpoint presentation. Two short video pieces will show the successful profile of both the Jaguar Rehabilitation Program, and the Belize Harpy Eagle Restoration Program.

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