So concludes the sign in front of one of the tapirs at Belize Zoo…
I recommend everyone that comes to Belize visits the Zoo, because it’s great fun, the animals are all in their natural habitat, there is no cement or perspex (so your paws are your own responsibility!), and it’s the only guaranteed way to see a jaguar, toucan, and all the other animals of Belize.
My first physical encounter with animals in Belize was even less pleasant than being peed on by a tapir. Six days after arrival, two pit bull dogs took objection to me walking down the street, broke off their chains and feasted on my ankles. I could hardly walk for two weeks, and the scars will never disappear, but while I am now far more wary of unknown dogs, my friendship with the animal kingdom was soon repaired.
Not too long after the dog incident, a fellow volunteer, Jess, came across some children about to throw a kitten down a slide, while a hungry dog waited at the bottom. Jess yelled at them to stop, scooped up the kitten and brought it home. Orchid, as we named her, was less than a month old, had a stripe of blue spray paint down her back, and looked generally dishevelled.
But after a few weeks she was a healthy, affectionate fur-ball who liked to sleep on top of my mosquito net. Most Belizeans do not like cats, and don’t know what a pet cat is like. One day, a Belizean friend came to the house, and Orchid promptly jumped on his lap and made herself comfortable. She was tolerated at first, that is, until she started to purr. Never having heard a cat purr before, the poor guy freaked out, said the cat was going to explode, and threw Orchid off his knee in a mad panic to everyone else’s laughter.
In Punta Gorda, howler monkeys and toucans live just minutes away from our rented house in town. Once at 4pm, I was leaving work, and I heard howler monkeys nearby. I took a 30 second walk across the cemetery, and found three howler monkeys at the top of a tree looking down suspiciously at the white girl being eaten by mosquitoes.
The land where we are building our new house has a fig tree in the garden where a group of over 20 parrots like to gossip over an all-you-can-eat fig buffet. A toucan perches on a nearby tree every day; iguanas chill out on various tree limbs and lizards dance around the grass. All only a 15 minute walk from the middle of town. As my father-in-law says, “you got your own zoo back deh for free”. I just need to work on some Kriol rhymes for it now.