The story behind The Belize Zoo

kids at the belize zoo

Kids having fun at the Zoo – Photo by Tony Cecala

I have a story to share with you about something incredible that happened in Belize, some might even consider it something straight out of a fairytale book. I’m referring to the Belize Zoo and the tale of its happy ending.

Did you know…

The latest estimate of species on earth is about 8.7 million species. That’s an amazing number. Some species are still not found yet, now that thought is even more amazing! Unfortunately, many species are not free to live in the wild; to live in the unbridled forests and deserts where the survival of the fittest is the law. Many animals have not been given the chance to defend themselves and win or lose the Darwin challenge. Many animals are taken from their natural places of dwelling to put into cages and exhibits in menageries.

tapir in belizeWe believe that no wild animals should be taken out of the wild for show! We believe that all animals should get fair opportunities to succeed in the wild as the scripts nature has written for them. We believe wild is wild and domesticates are domesticates!

Then, something happened in the animal world

In 1982 a National Geographic Animals of Central America filming session happened in Belize. People had some wild animals as pets and they got permission from their owners to be filmed, others were filmed in the wild. After the shooting, the film crew could not get the owners of these animals to take them back – so, then what? Enter Sharon Matola a tall, beautiful and strong intern working on the film. She and her team, with the support of grants, transformed the only way any other zoo in the world should be given a license to exist.

belize zoo entrance sign

Welcome to the Belize Zoo, the best little zoo in the world!

Approximately 45 species or about 120 animals – none taken from the wild for show! These animals were either born there, hatched there or were found injured in the wild and brought in for rehabilitation and some of them could not be returned due to their injuries. What is even more fascinating, unlike the vast majority of zoo’s throughout the world, all the animals are natives of the country of Belize and Central America. So please, don’t come prepared to see a rhinoceros, because we don’t have one, but we do have its relative, Bairds Tapir.

Thousands upon thousands of people visit the zoo yearly. Most Belizean students are introduced to Belizean animals at this zoo. Most of them would never get the chance, ever, to see these animals in the wild. Some delights at the zoo will be the great Jaguar to the majestic Harpy Eagle; from the Agouti Paca (a rodent) to Howler and Spider Monkeys. Visiting the zoo is a charm that you will not regret. It’s a fantastic introduction to Belize and its mammals and reptiles. It will be one of the very best decisions you will make when you visit Belize.

Here are a few details if you want to come:

The admission price is $15 for adults and $5 for kids.

Opening hours are from 8:30AM to 5:00PM, Monday to Sunday.

The Zoo is located a few miles West of Belize City, on the Western Highway. Mile 29 Western Highway if you want to be specific.

The estimated time for the tour is 2 hours but you can surely take additional time if you desire a more leisurely experience.

There are a few extra tours that can be done at the Zoo. There is a guided nocturnal tour, nature walks, tapir encounter and the Jaguar encounter. See the video below.


N.B. As a private NGO, there are various ways you can choose to help the Belize Zoo. You can either, one, give a donation, two, adopt an animal, three, become a member and four, volunteer or check out internship opportunities!




About Joe Awe

Chief Cultural Evangelist at Nine Belize Ecocultural Tours and Teacher at Sacred Heart Junior College. San Ignacio native and kick-ass tour guide.

5 Responses to The story behind The Belize Zoo

  1. Joe Awe November 3, 2014 at 10:36 PM #


  2. Jason Cordova September 2, 2015 at 4:12 PM #

    Nice one joe awe


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