World Wildlife Day: An Ode to Belize’s Wildlife and Biodiversity

by Khaila Gentle
belize wild cat big jaguar zoo

Of Belize’s 8,867 square miles, more than 5,000 square miles are covered by rainforests. And inside those lush forests lie hundreds of species of mammals, bird, reptiles, and amphibians. Combine that with the country’s diverse and oftentimes fascinating marine wildlife (over 500 species), and the result is a spectacular and awe-inspiring display of biodiversity. March 3 is observed annually as World Wildlife Day. And what better way to commemorate it than by celebrating Belize’s amazingly diverse wildlife?

World Wildlife Day: A Brief History

The United Nations’ World Wildlife Day commemorates the creation of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which was signed in 1973. This historic international agreement helps to ensure that the trading of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. More than 37,000 species of animals and plants are protected under CITES.

Billions of people, in developed and developing nations, benefit daily from the use of wild species for food, energy, materials, medicine, recreation, inspiration and many other vital contributions to human well-being.

-The UN

This year’s World Wildlife Day marks 50 years since CITES was first signed. At present, million species of plants and animals currently face extinction. This global biodiversity crisis is worsening, and World Wildlife Day aims to bring more awareness to the issue. The UN has stated that World Wildlife Day (WWD) is an opportunity to celebrate the “many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora” in the world and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that their conservation provides to people.

This year’s theme is  Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation.

Celebrating Belize’s Conservation Efforts

Belize is home to an astounding array of wildlife both on land and in the sea. And though the country is small, (about the size of New Jersey) it’s made grand strides in conservation.  Belize is home to the world’s only jaguar preserve. Established in 1986, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best places to learn about the Western Hemisphere’s largest cat (the third largest in the world). Over the years, the number of jaguars in the world has decreased significantly due to hunting and rapid deforestation. Belize, though, has managed to maintain a healthy population of these majestic cats.

Belize has also made strides in it’s marine conservation efforts. Most recently, it has done so through the historic blue blond agreement. Through this agreement, Belize is able to reduce its debt while ensuring the protection of its marine environment.

Close Encounters With Belize’s Fascinating Wildlife: Where to Go

© Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle
Belize wild cat margay big
Rich the Margay. Photo courtesy of The Belize Zoo & Tropical Education Center
rio bravo conservation and management area
Photo by Programme for Belize.
roeming spotted eagle ray belize
An unforgettable spotted eagle ray. Photo by ROEming Belize
Whale Shark diving. Photo by Splash Belize
Tarpon Feeding in Caye Caulker. Photo by Quilz Tamay Photography

From the colorful keel billed toucan to the magestic jaguar, Belize’s diverse and exotic wildlife aren’t too hard to find – if you know where to look, that is. From reef to rainforest, here are some ways you can get up close and personal with the animals of Belize.

1. Birdwatching in the Jungle

The toucans on our balcony at San Ignacio Resort [Photo Courtesy- Kaitlin Narciso]

Collared Aracaris perched on the balcony at San Ignacio Resort. Photo by Kaitlin Narciso

Belize is home to some 580 species of birds and as a result is widely known as a birder’s paradise. Keep your eyes – or binoculars – glued to the forest canopies or even on trees while driving down the highway for a glimpse of toucans, raptors, sparrows, parrots, and more.

2.Snorkeling and Diving

Plunge into Belize’s depths (or float on the surface) for a glimpse of the underwater world. Nurse sharks, rays, and even the occasional dolphin are just some of what awaits. For a really rare experience, go searching for whale sharks in the southern waters of the country,

3. The Belize Zoo

Belize’s well-known “best little zoo in the world” is home to over 200 animals from 45 different species. The list of Belize’s wildlife that can be spotted here is extensive. They include the tapir, spider monkeys, scarlet macaws, the jabiru stork, jaguars, coatimundis, and so much more.

Photo Credit: Laru Beya Resort

4. Monkey River Village

A historic Kriol village, Monkey River is a biodiversity hotspot in southern Belize. A tour down the eponymous Monkey River will grant you a chance to spot Howler Monkeys up in the trees and Crocodiles basking in the sun near the riverbed.

5. A Night Safari in the Rainforest

This unique experience offered at Chan Chich Lodge allows guests the chance to see Belize’s elusive cats, including the jaguar and the puma. And even if you don’t get to see them, there are plenty of other species of wildlife, like deer, spiders, snakes, and birds to be seen.

Featured photo: A jaguar at the Belize Zoo © Caribbean Culture + Lifestyle 

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