Belize Zoo, Contest Winners & Ambergris Caye’s Island Academy Celebrate Fuego the Tapir’s 2nd Birthday

Time flies…it seems like just yesterday that the Belize Zoo’s Fuego the Tapir was turning one.  (And strangely, I haven’t aged a day!)

After the passing of April, the original ambassador tapir for the Belize Zoo, Fuego has stepped quite comfortably into the role.  And now, each year, we will celebrate Fuego and the birthday of the national animal of Belize.

Here he is at one.

fuego at oneYesterday, he turned TWO YEARS OLD!  And to celebrate the Belize Zoo puts on a big party.  With a slogan contest, school kids, music, a marching band, food and a gorgeous cake for the birthday boy.

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I traveled to the mainland with one of the slogan contest winners!  Noah from the Standard 3 class at San Pedro’s Island Academy.  Here is the class posing on the dock with the slogan – after we returned from the trip.  Noah is seated in the center.

IMG_0181We met at the Belikin dock at 7am.  And the humidity!  The haze was obscuring the rising sun.


About an hour boat ride, we pulled up to the Ramada/Princess Hotel in Belize City…


And then loaded onto a school bus.  It’s a field trip after all!


We arrived at one of my favorite places on earth a bit early…festivities were scheduled for about 11am.  So we did a very quick tour of the zoo to visit some of my favorites before all the kids arrived.

The spider monkeys were watching us watching them.


And one of the world’s most beautiful creatures, the jaguar.  This is Junior Buddy and he’s been at the zoo since he was a cub.


We just celebrated his 8th birthday in February.  I REALLY celebrated by dressing like a jaguar for the kids…

One of my favorite photos of all time.

jaguar me


We really do….especially in Belize where some of the animals don’t even look real.

Like our national bird…a big show-off yesterday…


Time for the party.  It was all about Fuego, learning about the tapir and his importance in our eco-system, celebrating the winners of the slogan contest and fun.

Here is the agenda.


The slogans.  12 words about the tapir.  Kids around the country were asked to submit their best.

And the winners were invited, with their whole class, to the zoo for the party.

Here is the winner from Gallon Jug School in Orange Walk.


Next, from a student at Garden City Primary in Belmopan, this beautiful sign.



Sharon Matola, the legend and founder of the Belize Zoo and Lady Dixie Bowen, the headmistress of the Island Academy.


The marching band from Mahogany Heights readied for the national anthem.

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And then we sang the tapir song.  Here…so you can sing along.


Sharon played the guitar and Noah showed us all how it was done.

IMG_0083There was a skit…


And Noah presented his winning banner.



One boy, also from the Gallon Jug school, got a special shout out for “Funniest Slogan” – the Tapir is an animal of Belize, they run and crash into trees.  Ha.

OH!  And then Miss Belize was crowned…

IMG_0106She is gorgeous.


But not as pretty as the real thing.  We brought the cake (sweet potatoes and bananas, lots of flowers) in for Fuego.  The slogan winners lined up under the banner.


And the birthday boy moved in to demolish it…


The winners even got to pet him.



Fuego’s adoring fans.

IMG_0151What’s not to love?


It was time to let the next kids meet Fuego and to take a walk around the zoo.  I had to say hello to my friend Panama the Harpy eagle (I celebrated his birthday 7th birthday last November)…

He looks great for his age.  And LOOK AT THOSE TALONS!


GOODNESS it was a hot day…as the animals dozed in the hazy heat, we packed up to get back to the boat.

The youngest member of our crew and his dad took the wheel…



And we headed back…a super fun day but everyone was hot and dusty and…probably thinking of their slogans for next year.  We need to go back!


How about this haiku – using the information I learned at the party?

Umbrella species

Majestic Belize tapir

Poop seeds tapir, poop

What a great day.

IMG_0148For information on the AMAZING BELIZE ZOO, check out their website and then check them out.


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