Wednesday, July 13, 2011

day at the zoo, part one: meeting Junior Buddy

The Belize Zoo's motto is 'best little zoo in the world,' and I have to agree (and I have been to a lot of zoos).  They have this great combo of lots of wildlife, and a typical Belizean attitude that people should be able to take care of themselves-- which adds up to really, really close encounters with the animals.  Some, not so comfortable-- like walking by the 12 foot crocodile, seeing him look me straight in the eye, and then realizing all that separates us is a 3 foot wall made out of bamboo.  Not even exaggerating.  But other encounters are pretty much the awesomest thing I have done here.  For a small fee, the zookeepers let you pet a jaguar.

Junior Buddy is a jaguar that was born at the zoo.  His mother was a rescued and rehabilitated jaguar, and she came pregnant to the program.  Zookeepers have been working with Buddy his whole life, which means he is somewhat trained... for a 145 lb lethal weapon in a fur coat.

The zookeepers work as a pair.  One lures Buddy into a side cage, the other into a cage inside Buddy's enclosure and locks it.

Then he calls... 'here, kitty kitty'.  Actually, he really called 'commeer Buddy!' 

I asked if I could pet Buddy, and the zookeeper said, yes as long as you don't put your fingers in his mouth.'
Wasn't really tempted anyways.

His fur wasn't soft at all.  It was really coarse, like one of those coconut-fiber door mats.
He was pretty playful, the zookeeper bribed him with chicken feet and he did somersaults for us.

Daniel got his forehead licked too.  Buddy is only supposed to lick you if you are bald, but the zookeeper let him lick me because it was my birthday.  He totally surprised me though- he just grabbed my head and kept his hand over my hair without telling me what was going on, and then all of a sudden I was being licked. By a very big, VERY rough tongue.  

look at those amazing spots.

We were in the cage for maybe 20 minutes, and then afterwards the zookeeper put a chicken foot out so Buddy would pose for our pictures.  You can tell Buddy just loves it.

More to come!


  1. His paws are HUGE!!! So glad you cleared up that whole jaguar tongue licking you photo!!! I so need to return there one day!!!!!

  2. This is very very cool.

    Would you believe that I had a dream about visiting you in Belize last night? You cooked me something awesome, local, organic and utterly tasty.

    Also, you should check out the book I'm reading now: This Life Is In Your Hands ( It's the story of a family who went back to the land during the seventies and the effects it had on their lives, including the accidental death of the author's younger sister. I'm about halfway through and thus far, it's reminding me of the beauty of the island that I grew up on, and also providing some really honest insights into the culture of those times.


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