Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Special Zoo in the Caribbean -

Near Belize City, Belize, the Caribbean’s finest zoo offers wild new experiences and works hard at saving Central American wildlife.
by Bob Friel
Jaguar claws are wicked works of art. The brawny cats use these blade-sharp toenails to climb the trunks of tropical trees, where they wait to ambush tapirs, deer and peccaries. On the pounce, a jaguar’s fangs — driven by the cat world’s most powerful jaws — go to work, piercing the prey’s skull for a single-bite kill. But it’s the claw at hand that has me enthralled. I run my finger down the smooth, hooked front and test the point, sensing that the slightest pressure would have it tearing through my skin. I’m lost for a moment, comparing my woefully useless human nail to this terrible, terribly functional tool. Then a sudden primordial chill tingles deep inside me. I lift my eyes and meet an intense golden stare — I’d almost forgotten that the claw I’m fondling remains attached to a live jaguar.

Fortunately, the jaguar in question is Junior Buddy, and he’s a real pussycat. Junior’s beefy paw hangs high-fived against the wire fence of his management area while a zookeeper hand-feeds him chicken feet. Born here at the Belize Zoo three years ago, Junior serves not only as a star attraction and an ambassador for his species but also as a purring, prowling example of the zoo’s success at saving these awesome animals.
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A Special Zoo in the Caribbean -

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