Does Belize Have Big Cats? Here’s What You Need to Know About The Big 5

by Giulissa Hernandez

Are you ready to embark on a thrilling journey into the heart of Belize’s untamed wilderness? Big cats are a source of fascination for both local and international wildlife enthusiasts. If you’re among those interested, you’ll be delighted to discover what Belize holds. Recently spotlighted by Virginia Tech, Belize’s “Big 5″ cats stand as mysterious and majestic creatures that beckon to those enchanted by the wild.

Photo by Charles Slessar / Hamanasi

 For anyone with an insatiable curiosity about nature’s finest predators, Belize promises a remarkable encounter with these feline wonders. Dive deep into the world of Belize’s big cats. If you’re eager to explore, here’s what you need to know about these magnificent creatures and where to find them.

The Jaguar: Belize’s Apex Predator

Photo by Leonardo Melenzez

The Jaguar is the largest and most iconic big cat species in Belize. These powerful and elusive predators are known for their striking coat patterns and muscular build. Jaguar populations are highest in protected areas like the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, which is renowned as the world’s first jaguar preserve.

Similar: The Most Likely Places in Belize to Spot A Jaguar in the Wild 

Venture into the Gallon Jug area in northern Belize as it is a hotspot for jaguar sightings. These magnificent cats are the apex predators of Belize’s forests and play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance. 

The Ocelot: Spotted and Sly

baby ocelot flood victim the belize zoo adopt

Consider adopting an animal at The Belize Zoo, like this ocelot cub rescued from the 2020 floods in Belize. Photo by The Belize Zoo

The Ocelot is a smaller, beautifully spotted feline that inhabits the forests and wetlands of Belize. Ocelots are known for their elegant appearance and nocturnal habits. Their smaller build means they’re quick at catching prey and also at escaping humans! If you don’t have the time–or patience– to spot these in the wild, the Belize Zoo is home to many big cats. Witness these stunning cats up close, as the zoo is home to rescued ocelots and other native wildlife. Partake in their feeding rituals and hand-feed an ocelot yourself.  The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is another place where you might encounter ocelots during night hikes.

The Puma: The Silent Hunter

Princess the Puma. Photo Credit: The Belize Zoo

Pumas, also known as Mountain Lions, are another species of big cats found in Belize. These cats are solitary and elusive, often avoiding human contact. They feast on smaller mammals and are excellent hunters. What’s their M.O.? Silently stalking their prey and then pouncing at the right moment! Pumas have a wide distribution and can be encountered in various habitats, including the dense forests of Gallon Jug and the foothills of the Maya Mountains. 

The Margay: A Tree-Dwelling Feline

Belize wild cat margay big

Rich the Margay. Photo by The Belize Zoo

The Margay is a fascinating and striking species. These tree-dwelling cats are known for their agility and remarkable ability to navigate the canopies of the rainforest. You may spot a Margay during a guided tour in the Cockscomb Basin, which is part of their natural habitat. Keep an eye on the treetops, and you might be rewarded with a glimpse of these elusive feline acrobats. Fun fact: most of their lives are lived above ground level!

The Jaguarundi: Lesser-Known but Well-Beloved


Last but certainly not least: the Jaguarundi. A lesser-known big cat in Belize, these are often mistaken for a small jaguar or ocelot. However, it’s still a marvel to catch a glimpse of them in the wild! Jaguarundis are known for their unique appearance and adaptable nature, allowing them to thrive in various environments, from forests to grasslands. Unlike the previously mentioned felines, jaguarundis don’t have any spots as visual markings. Instead, their coat is reddish brown. While sightings of Jaguarundis are less common, they have been spotted in places like the Cockscomb Basin and Gallon Jug. Make it a personal mission and see if you can spot this smaller cat in Belize!

Embark on a journey to encounter Belize’s expansive wildlife. See how many of the Big 5 you can spot yourself!

Featured Photo courtesy of Belize My Travels

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