Junior Buddy’s 8th Birthday Party at the Belize Zoo: My Chance to High Five a Jaguar AND Be A Jaguar

I love love love the Belize Zoo with its 125 animals – all native to the country and all in their natural habitats.  In New Jersey that might not be much but in Belize it means amazing, beautiful, exotic creatures.

IMG_7705The Belize Zoo educates kids around the country but yesterday, they brought two schools to the zoo to meet the “ambassador jaguar” – Junior Buddy – and to celebrate his birthday.


Over the past year, I’ve been to Fuego the Tapir 1st Birthday…awesome.


and sang to Panama the Harpy Eagle for his party.  So when Jamal from the zoo called for volunteers for the JAGUARS birthday, I answered immediately.  Agreeing to basically anything for the gig.  Sigh…


But let me back up…to my arrival at the zoo.  I was a tiny bit early so after learning about the game I would be running for the kids, I took a quick run around the zoo.

The beautiful toucans were especially camera-ready.


I love the signs…a bit of humor and lots of great messages.

IMG_7608 IMG_7710The jabiru stork…


I snuck right over to see Junior Buddy, the birthday boy.  8 years old…I saw him as a cub when I first visited the zoo in November 2007 with my family.  His mom, Springfield, was captured, pregnant, sick and killing sheep in Springfield village and brought to the zoo.

She still lives in the enclosure right next to her son.

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Brutus the neighboring croc was thoroughly unimpressed by the upcoming party.


And Junior…was taking a disco nap.  Can you think of a more GORGEOUS animal.  Just laying in the sunny spot in his enclosure…

IMG_7629I was there alone and I spent a solid 5 minutes mooning over Junior Buddy.  It’s one of the beauties of the Belize Zoo…you are never pushing through a crowd to see any of the animals.

Mooning time over!  I headed back to the party where St John’s Anglican School from Belize City and a local pre-school from La Democracia village were gearing up for fun…but mostly for the bouncy house.

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I prepped myself on my game…a little jaguar trivia and then went to what I was really here for.  To dress like a jaguar and appear while Sharon, the zoo’s founder, was leading the kids in song.


Sigh…in the storage room.


And then I was camera-less…

Thanks for the picture James Lewis/Belize Zoo.  This will be my Facebook profile picture FOREVER.


And Dino, my fellow bespectacled jaguar for these hilarious (to me) pics.

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Let me just tell you that I was HOT in that costume and that I made two preschoolers cry ACCIDENTALLY.   Good good times.

The presentation was made, the song was sung, the jaguar essay winners were announced and awarded stuffed jaguars and we were on to present Junior Buddy with his gift!

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Junior knew something was going on…he came right up to the edge to greet the kids.IMG_7659 IMG_7663

And his “cake”…some sort of animal shank.  Delicious!


After photos and a bit of ceremony, Jamal climbed up on the fence to toss the bone unceremoniously in to the birthday boy.


He threw it in the small pond and Junior moved insanely fast.  Though raised in the zoo completely, this guy is still a wild animal.  And you don’t want your fingers or anything else near him.

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The next group came in to wish him a happy birthday.

I took the chance to go meet another jaguar with Jamal.  Rocky, the largest jaguar in the zoo, who was captured from the wild as a “problem jaguar”.  With love and attention and the proper amount of incentive (chicken hearts and parts), he is now used for education.

And I loved hearing that many of the villagers who he terrified when he was sick and entered the village look for food, have come to visit him and to see how gorgeous he really is.

If there is a jaguar near your home or in your village, CALL THE ZOO!  They are endangered and a treasure to Belize in so many ways.


Beautiful Rocky only has eyes for his treats.  And he rolls over for them and high fives.  It’s absolutely amazing to be this close to this king of the jungle.


No zoom.


High five.

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And slightly scary when he sneezes right on you.


Cat person or not, these animals are going to knock your socks off.

A few more photos from the FANTASTIC day.



Adult favors.


And some quick notes.  I caught the bus back to Belize City with some folks who were on a cruise ship…

The bus leaves the Belize City terminal every half hour – take the local.  Ask the terminal workers in the yellow shirts, they will help.  Fare:  $3bzd.  Ride 50 minutes.

The bus from the zoo to Belize City also comes every half hour.  Waiting on the side of the Western Highway can be HOT…bring some water and a sweat rag.


Yesterday’s bus was a doozy.  I’m guessing that it went from 0 to 60mph in….never.  This bus could never go 60mph.IMG_7777For lots more information on the Belize Zoo, visit their website and visit them often.  It’s a magical place.

And especially for me.  Thanks SO much for letting me participate…total awesomeness.




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