Belize's national animal (or mammal), is the Baird's tapir. Locally known as the "mountain cow". They are forest dwellers, active mostly at night as they forage along river banks and forest clearings. They feed on grasses, aquatic vegetation, leaves, buds, and fruits of the low-growing shrubs. They sometime run afoul of man when they cause damage to corn fields and other crops.
Despite its adaptability, the tapir is high on the list of the world's endangered species. Only in Belize does this shy creature still feel really at home. The tapir is the largest of all land animals indigenous to Central America. An adult weighs up to 650 lbs., its bulky body upholstered in a skin measuring between one to three centimeters thick. Still this behemoth is able to sneak quietly away on its tiptoes, or to run off boisterously on its short little legs - as fast as a man!
Speaking of feet, these are specially designed for walking through mud holes, splaying out for maximum foothold in the muck and bunching up for easy extraction.
The tapir has a long, flexible upper lip, which it uses for foraging and for shoveling food into its mouth. Its teeth include heavy-duty molars for crunching leaves and twigs and for crushing seed casements which require as much as 500 lbs of pressure! Another way it deals with seeds is to swallow them whole and then digest them so slowly that they germinate in the process. Fruits and vegetables are also enjoyed; the belief held by some in Belize that these herbivores will attack cattle is totally unfounded.
Although it eyesight is deficient, the tapir's hearing and sense of smell are acute.
Tapirs do not tend to congregate and they usually forage - day and or night - alone. A single offspring is born, ill-disguised as a fawn: brown, with white stripes and spots, which it does not lose until it is about half a year old. It will stay with its mother for another half year, by which time it will have accumulated a formidable bulk of its own.
They are usualy non-aggressive, avoiding confrontation by taking off in the other direction. In captivity they can be friendly and affectionate, as is April, the Belize Zoo's beloved tapir; every year, April's birthday is celebrated at the zoo by the children of Belie who bring her gifts of carrots and bananas.
Tapirs are usually solitary except when mothers have young. they range over large territories and are excellent swimmers spending a fair amount of time in forest rivers. They are also agile climbers, crashing up steep hillsides and river banks with apparent ease. When surprised, tapirs generally head for water, but will sometimes stamp their feet loudly and sometimes whistle.
The Bairds Tapir ranges from Southern Mexico to Northern Columbia and are endangered throughout their range. The main threats to the tapir survival is hunting and deforestation.
Where Tapir's can be found in Central America
FUN TAPIR FACTS FOR KIDS
Hey Kids, Did You Know? - Fun Facts about Tapirs for Kids
Belize is home to one of the largest New World monkeys, the spider monkey. The rainforests of Central America, Mexico and South America are where these playful primates spend most of their time.
They get their name from their ability to stretch out like a spider in the canopy of the forest, high up in the tree tops. They are easily recognized with their long limbs and unique tail that is longer than their body. The tail is used as a fifth limb for support and swinging in the trees, but also provides an advantage to the monkeys by allowing them to hang from their tails and grasp hard to reach fruit. Both males and females have a black coat with patches of white, long limbs, and a tail that is just as long as the body, with males being slightly bigger than females.
If they ever decide to get down to serious business, these monkeys are able to travel at amazingly high speeds, using the style known as brachiating. Brachiating is the progressive from one hold (branch or vine) to another by alternate hand grips, including the tail, which is able to support the monkey's full weight. One long stride can cover up to 40 feet.
Monkey Communities - Spider monkeys are very social creatures, usually living in intricate communities of two to three dozen individuals which break off into smaller groups to sleep and forage. These communities are overseen by a single matriarch that keeps the group on a feeding and sleeping schedule as well as deciding who can be a part of the community. Populations of spider monkeys can get very loud as they communicate with one another, while some in the group sleep, others keep watch and signal with a loud barking if threatened or disturbed.
Where Do They Live? - Spider monkey's live in the rainforest canopy. Spider monkeys have an important relationship with the forest, the canopy provides protective cover for the primates from aerial predators, such as large birds, and a hiding place from other predators like jaguars and pumas. Small groups of these monkeys travel long distances throughout the trees looking for food, using their long limbs to snag hard to reach fruit and leaves. They require a continuous canopy to thrive, using it to travel, sleep, and as a source of food. For this reason, human deforestation has been a critical challenge in the success of these primates in Central America.
Tending to stay in the tops of the trees, they rarely coming down from the canopy, and feed over a large range of the forest. These primates tend to avoid contact with humans when they can, and have been known to leave areas that have been disturbed by humans. You can tell when a spider monkey is defending its territory by the loud barking and other vocalizations they make when they feel disturbed or threatened.
Diet & Rainforest Ecosystem - Their active lifestyle requires a huge diet and spider monkeys spend most of their time eating, which is great for the rainforest! Here's why......Spider monkeys have special digestive systems that allow them to eat fruit whole, this helps them eat quickly so they can keep moving. As they travel further, they spread the seeds through defecation, thus contributing to the diversity of the rainforest ecosystem. Spider monkeys depend on the rainforest for their home, food, and communities, while the forest, in turn depends on them for seed dispersal.
They can be quarrelsome & fastidious fruit eaters, only about 20% of their diet consist of leaves, which they take from the uppermost branches. Their long tails are also used to eat, either by hanging in suspension or picking up food. As a result, they can consume large amounts of foods in little time. Their diet consists of fruits and seeds and the occasional leaves, flowers and decaying wood but they also eat insects and bird eggs on rare occasions.
Lifestyle - During the day, active spider monkeys tend to travel in troops, normally of about 20, which divide into smaller uni-sex groups. The adult and juvenile males going one way and the females and their dependent off-spring going another. At night they pair off in the sleeping trees, apparently choosing their partners by the whim of the moment.
The troop appears to maintain a range between themselves, marked by chemical scents. The males do this, by spreading chest gland secretions on to leaves and branches. Certain calls also establish occupancy, and barking is used in repelling invaders or predators. Long, loud calls are used to coordinate troop movements. Other forms of communication include very versatile facial expressions and definitive body postures.
Offspring - The newborn spider monkey spends its first three months in the constant company of its mother, initially carried close to the chest, but very shortly it soon begins to ride on her back. It continues to suckle for about a year, although it starts to forage for leaves and fruit, at around 3 months of age.
Gestation Period - The gestation period for spider monkeys is 225 days, with only one offspring born at a time. As there are two or three years between pregnancies, the population is very slow to recover from any sort poaching, or sport killing. As in the case of the yellow fever epidemic of the 50's, which killed off a large proportion of Belizean spider monkeys.
Conservation - Spider monkeys face several challenges trying to hold on to their habitat. Several predators can have a drastic effect on populations including eagles, hawks, owls, pumas and jaguars. Eagles and other predatory birds prey on the young of the population, taking a baby spider monkey as a meal if the canopy does not provide protection. Jaguars and puma are stealthy enough to sneak up on a spider monkey and take them down. However, even though their natural predators can have an effect on the overall population size, it is the human population that causes the most damage for this species.
Deforestation has a direct effect on the range of feeding grounds the monkeys have access too, and also creates fragmentation in the forest that can separate individuals or groups from the rest of the population if they get stuck. On top of the effects we have on their habitat, the illegal pet trade targets these animals as inventory and sells them to the public. Spider monkeys carry their babies for 7.5 months before they are born and then usually have a two year period before they will have another baby. The long time span in between offspring makes it difficult for these animals to combat threats to their dwindling population fast enough.
As in the case of the yellow fever epidemic of the 50's, which killed off a large proportion of Belizean spider monkeys. Although their numbers have increased, they continue to be considered an endangered species here in Belize. Aside from natural predators, human encroachment of their habitat is a serious threat to their survival - as is the misguided fad of keeping them as pets. If you are tempted to take in one of these adorable babies as a member of your household, think twice. Not only is it illegal, but they are messy and mischievous; worse, as it reaches maturity your cute little pet might suddenly turn vicious in the frustration of its unnatural life, and by then it will be too late to reintroduce him into the wild.
THE SPIDER MONKEY EXHIBIT at the BELIZE ZOO
At the Belize Zoo, the spider monkey exhibit has always been a popular stop for Zoo visitors. The playful primates that live in the trees enjoy showing off their acrobatics for their spectators. The Yucatan Spider Monkey that calls Belize home is an endangered species, which makes any successful birth even more significant and welcomed!
The Yucatan Spider Monkeys have black hair that is bristly and often matted. They also have a tan colour around their eyes, whiskers, chin and head area. Although males and females look similar, the female Spider Monkeys tend to be a little bigger in size but weigh less; their average weight is 19 pounds.
Populations took a steep drop in the 1950’s due to a strain of yellow fever, but, today, their major threats are deforestation and the pet trade. Fruits make up a big part of the spider monkey diet, which makes them important seed dispersers. Their population decline directly impacts the productivity of our forests.In the wild, spider monkeys live in large social groups. The father has no direct parenting role, but protects the group’s territory from intruders.
The Zoo is grateful to have a small troop of monkeys in an environment where Belizeans can come and observe them from a safe distance, and learn so much about their behavior, ecology, and threats. However, a strong message is also reinforced at the monkey exhibits. “Monkey business is bad business!,” the signs boldly state. As fascinating as they may be, having monkeys as pets is NOT an option. Apart from being illegal in Belize, the pet trade only works to destroy an already endangered population. A mother monkey would never abandon its young, so you can be sure the cute baby being sold just is an unfortunate orphan whose mother was killed.
BLACK HOWLER MONKEY FACTS
YUCATAN SPIDER MONKEY FACTS
THE MONKEY ORCHID (aka Dracula Gigas Orchids)
Native to Central America & Parts of South America
The scientific name "Dracula", Latin for "little dragon", refers to the creepy appearance of the flower. There are approximately 100 different species of dracula orchids. They are native to Central America and parts of South America.
Species in this genus are quite diverse, but the most popular are the species which resembles a monkey's face. These unusual, showy flowers are one of the most amazing orchids you’ve ever seen. Mother Nature is so brilliant in its design.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT MONKEY ORCHIDS (dracula gigas)
Orchids produce some of the most interesting and unique flowers. The Dracula genus is most famous for containing the monkey face species. However, just a few members of the genus (Dracula simia, Dracula gigas, Dracula benedictii and Dracula wallisii) have monkey-like appearance. The center of the flowers resemble the face of a monkey, and indeed, these unusual looking flowers look just like a monkey. And the most interesting thing is that different flowers provide different expressions of the monkey face.
Some members of this genus (Dracula simia and Dracula gigas) are commonly known as "Monkey Orchids", but the common name Monkey Orchid is not only restricted to this genus. Other species, such as Calanthe tricarinata and Orchis simia are also known as Monkey Orchids.
The plants usually grow at high altitudes, between 5,250-8,200 feet.
Bumblebee Bats are the world's smallest mammal and Belize's smallest bat. They are between 1.1 to 1.3 inches in length (29-33 mm), they weight .07 ounce (or 2 g), they have no tail, and their wingspan is approximately 6.7 inches (or 170 mm).
Bumblebee bats, have a reddish/brown or grey upper parts with their underside being pale in colour. They have dark coloured relatively wide wings with long tips that enables them to hover. Their nose is pig-like, they have small eyes and relatively large ears. They have a large web of skin between their hind legs, known as the uropatagium, that gives them assistance when in flight.
They are most active at dusk when they fly around jungle tree tops and cave entrances capturing insects.
The Bumblebee Bat Habitat - Bumblebee Bats are found in Belize. Small colonies consisting of 10 - 100 bats, high up in limestone caves. When they roost they are spread out so that they are not touching each other. They prefer caves in forested areas, near rivers.
The Bumblebee Bat Diet - Bumblebee Bats feed on insects. They either take them from foliage or capture them in the air.
The Bumblebee Bat Breeding - Very little is known about reproduction in Bumblebee Bats but it is thought that they give birth to a single young in late April each year.
Interesting Facts - Bumblebee Bats get their popular name because they are a similar size to a large bumblebees. The Bumblebee Bat has been included as one of the 10 species to be investigated by the Zoological Society of London.
BELIZE'S SMALLEST MAMMAL - The Bumblebee Bat
This Central American "Big Cat", is the third largest cat in the world. The jaguar is so special to the Belize people, that the government has taken over 155 square miles of land and set it aside as a jaguar sanctuary, to preserve the "Big Cat" of Belize.
They can weigh as much as 300 lbs, some weigh less, but they are awesome nonetheless. A jaguar has massive shoulders, and huge forepaws, with claws to grasp anything they set their little (or should I say....large) heart upon. Their jaws can crush any skull, so these "Big Cats" deserve your respect.
The truth is, jaguars are non-aggressive towards humans unless provoked, or until they have been attacked by man in a more outright manner. Some jaguars have been found raiding livestock, but also remember, what man has done in the past few years by depleting the jaguar's natural habitat for food, with deforestation. This is when our government stepped in and said, "No More!" and the Cockscomb Jaguar Sanctuary National Park was established in 1986.
The jaguar spends much of the day snoozing on a bed of leaves, or sunning itself on a log or ledge. It may get around to making an occasional ground scrape or the odd tree scratch to serve as boundary markets, delineating its territory. Although ranges may partially overlap, they generally are not shared. To the male jaguar, his hundred or so kilometers of jungle - is his kingdom, whereas the female may choose to change her castle - and with it, her mate.
Females begin breeding at about three years. Gestation is approximately three months. A female jaguar will normally have about two cubs to a litter. If they manage to survive, the mother will remain caring for her cubs going into the following year.
Jaguars become active at night, stalking the peccary by preference but, if none are available, they will settle for agoutis, monkeys, deer, birds, even lizards and fish. The kill is accomplished by a bite at the neck. The jaguar is still hunted - illegally - for its beautiful yellow-brown or buff colored coat, which looks like an artist painted on it, elegant black spots, rosettes and butterflies.
The greatest danger to the jaguar, however, is human encroachment on its home territory. As the forests of its range (northern Mexico to Argentina) recede, its life is in jeopardy, even when prey is still available, jaguars do not appear to be highly adaptable to enforced change. Hopefully, here in Belize there is a future for the jaguar, with the establishment of the world's first Jaguar Preserve in the Cockscomb Forest Reserve. A public awareness of the jaguar's plight will assure not only that its inherent rights will be respected but that the glory of its existence will be appreciated for many years to come.
Trent S. Turley
My name is Trenton S. Turley, and I am a Belizean citizen who has now been living in the country of Belize for the past 15 years. I am also an environmental activist. Our family moved to Belize, when I was 8 years old. I speak English, Spanish, Kriol and American Sign Language. I have a true love for the eco-system of Belize, with regards to preserving this beautiful countries resources.
I'm now a licensed Tour Guide
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