Sunday, January 27, 2008

Zoo News

The British Army removed most of the cage material from our property this week. That turned into a little bit of a fiasco, but it looks like it will work out okay in the end. Originally, the Army was scheduled to come on Monday, but lines were crossed and they didn’t make it. They rescheduled for Thursday, and I stayed home and waited for them to arrive. A little before noon, an Army guy in a regular SUV pulled up the driveway to make sure he was in the right place, and when we assured him that he was, he directed the truck accompanying him to pull into the driveway – one truck, with one driver. The SUV driver told us that they’d left their base camp with two trucks, but one had broken down on the Western Highway, so they had to call their recovery unit and wait for help to arrive. He didn’t explain how he ended up with just one other soldier to help, but that was probably because he didn’t seem to really believe me when I told him that I was worried about two men doing the work because the cage material is so heavy. Selwyn and I went on about our business, and about 45 minutes after starting to load the truck, the soldier came to the door to explain that he didn’t think he and his buddy could do this alone, so they were going to take what they’d managed to load and come back the next day with more trucks and more men. He was a little humbled by the fact that he hadn’t believed either me or Sharon when we’d tried to explain how heavy this stuff is, but was willing enough to admit that he was in over his head and replan the pickup. He left with a bag of grapefruit I was picking while they were here, and, even better, took a look at our room and said he’d get in touch so he could some stay with us with his wife and three-year-old son so they could explore the Mountain Pine Ridge.

While the reinforcements came back to pick up the cage material on Friday, Tom and I visited the Zoo with Selwyn, Hilda, and the kids. Before Christmas we’d made plans to take them to the Zoo for the day as a Christmas present, but before Christmas we were all sick with the cold or flu that everybody seemed to have, then Tom’s parents were here, then the Zoo crew was here working on the cages, and suddenly it was the end of January. So, when Sharon was here last weekend, we made arrangements to go to the Zoo and get a behind-the-scenes tour on Friday.

The Zoo tour was great! Blad, who had been in charge of the work crew here, gave us the tour.

We started with Blad getting the boa out of the cage for us to hold.

Junior and the boa

We all got to hold the boa, even if some of us didn’t look too sure about it.

Even me! I was allowed to touch this one, and didn’t get yelled at like I did when I touched the one at Caracol.

Tom and I saw more animals than we’d ever seen at the Zoo, because the animals all know Blad because he feeds them.

When we couldn’t see one in a cage, Blad would call and the animals would come out from where ever they were.

Blad also told us the stories behind all the animals; some had been injured in the wild, some were pets that were either confiscated by the government or turned into the Zoo by the pet owners themselves when the wild animal started acting more like a wild animal than a pet. This tapir was picked up because he was blinded by some kids with slingshots. The cage material we’re donating to the Zoo is going to be used to build a new, larger tapir enclosure.

Blad said they get a fair number of coatimundis because they’re cute and affectionate as babies, but when they grow up they get very protective of their owners and their owners’ things, and start attacking anything that comes into their territory.

The highlight of the visit was when Blad called Wild Boy out of his lair. Wild Boy is a jaguar who was killing cattle in the southern part of Belize, and instead of being destroyed, he was captured and taken to the Zoo where he was put into the Jaguar Rehabilitation Program. Blad had us climb up on a stump one at a time so we were face to face with Wild Boy, who snarled, roared, spit, bit the cage, and whacked the cage with his very large paws. However, he’d calm down after he got a good look at whoever was looking at him, and very gently took chicken feet from our hands through the bars of the cage.

He also rolled over on command when we moved our hands in a circular motion in front of him, and would give us a “high five” when we held our hands up to the cage. His breath was really bad – worse than Nock’s, Tom says – and as he snarled he’d spit, but it was worth being close enough to get a good look at him because he is absolutely beautiful, with a shiny coat and beautiful well defined spots. We also got to meet Junior the Jaguar, who was born at the Zoo in February 2007. We were laughing because Selwyn’s oldest son is called Junior, and he also has a birthday coming up.

We left the Zoo and went to Amigos for lunch, then went to Old Belize. Tom and Selwyn had been there before, but neither Hilda and the kids nor I had been there. It’s definitely a tourist trap, but the walk through museum is a good overview of Belize’s history and culture, and the man-made beach is great place to let the kids play in the water. We had the beach all to ourselves, which is great, but I guess it’s pretty busy when a load of cruise ship tourists are there. Besides the beach, which is on a man-made lagoon that breaks the waves from the Caribbean Sea, they have a zip line and a water slide, and they’re in the process of finishing a snorkeling/diving pool.

On the way home we stopped at Hilda’s parents’ house. We were all a little surprised, because between the last time any of us, including Hilda, had been there, and Friday night, they got a new house. It’s a very big wooden Mennonite house, and everybody who is still living at home will get their own bedroom. They’re still in the process of finishing the inside, but it will be quite roomy and comfortable when they’re done. After a quick visit, we left there and grabbed chicken barbeque for dinner in Santa Elena, and then headed back up the hill and home. We were all pooped, but it was a great day.

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