You Gotta Belize, it is Wonderful! By Primate Supervisor, Dena Strange

Did my title catch your attention? Now that my mosquito, spider, army ant and a couple of unidentified bites are healing up, I thought I should tell everyone about my trip to Belize that was sponsored by the Houston Zoo’s Staff Conservation Fund (donations from Houston Zoo staff  designated for Houston Zoo staff conservation efforts) .

I went down to visit Wildtracks , originally a Manatee rescue/ rehabilitation and release center in Belize. They added the endangered Yucatan Black Howler Monkey in 2010 to their wildlife rehabilitation program and have a successful release program in the nearby Fireburn Forest Reserve. Wildtracks is run by Paul and Zoe Walker and assisted by a dozen or so wonderful volunteers (how to volunteer at Wildtracks link) from all over the globe. Wildtracks is located 2 miles west of the tiny village of Sarteneja in northern Belize (accessed by either 40 miles of dirt road or a 90 minute water taxi…guess which one I chose!).  


The primate department at the Houston Zoo has been supporting Yucatan Black Howler Monkey conservation in Belize for many years (read previous blogs here) and Wildtracks since 2010. Last October the primate department raised almost $4000 during the annual Zoo Boo weekends by selling items (some of it hand-made by staff) and raising awareness of howler monkeys and Wildtracks by creating “ Zoe the Zoo Keeper’s Adventure” .  Zoe the Zoo Keeper is a character primate staff created to help tell the story of wildlife conservation in Belize.  The money raised in October was used to build more caging to house confiscated howler monkeys and to buy fencing for the new pre-release area (an area that prepares them for the wild again) for howlers.


The main purpose of this trip was to discuss opportunities for conservation collaboration with Wildtracks and the Belizean Forestry Department and explore how the Houston Zoo’s staff might enhance Wildtrack’s progress with rehabilitating and releasing howlers back into the wild. Owning wildlife is illegal in Belize and now that Wildtracks has the facility to accept more howler monkeys, the Belize Forestry Department has stepped up confiscations. However, most Belizeans are completely unaware that owning wildlife including howler monkeys is illegal. After meeting with Rasheda Garcia (Forestry Dept manager) and Paul Walker, we all agreed that the next step is focusing on educating Belizeans. We brainstormed several ideas and have come up with a plan that we hope to fulfill in the coming year!


You can learn more and help support Wildtracks by visiting their website (here) and/or visiting our table during Zoo Boo in October 2013. Mark your calendars and look out for Zoe the Zookeeper!


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This morning, we took a special field trip to spend time with the Houston Dash. Thanks for letting us be in the team photo! ... See MoreSee Less


This morning, we took a special field trip to spend time with the Houston Dash. Thanks for letting us be in the team photo!

Sets up a surprise sloth encounter as a birthday present for Simone Biles. You might think his shirt is made out of cotton. Turns out, it's boyfriend material. ... See MoreSee Less


Sets up a surprise sloth encounter as a birthday present for Simone Biles. You might think his shirt is made out of cotton. Turns out, its boyfriend material.


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Can anyone do this?

Where is the sloth's exhibit located within the zoo?

I'm not sure who is the cutest- the sloth, Simone, her boyfriend or SMG!!!

And that is Curly- the best sloth in the world!

Christopher Vavrecka 😍 this is what I want for my birthday

Taylar T Riley - did you know this was a thing? a sloth encounter!?

Karen Collacchi Robert I think we found you know who’s birthday present

I signed my wife up back in December. She gets her sloth encounter in May and is very excited!!

Erica Gunter when we going to see the giraffes?? 😍

JasonSara Pipkin, I do have a membership next time you want to go to Houston. 😉

Jason! I want an encounter with Succotash for my upcoming bday!!

what a cute picture... that sloth sure did pose for it too 😂😂

Julia Tompkins you and Simone have met the same sloth

I like the way the sloth looks right at the camera and poses for the picture.

Melissa Nitsche - we held a sloth & baby in Cartegena while on vacation when we lived in Panama City, Panana

Maria Diaz you could do this for Jenn!

Madi Fenton. They have sloths at the H-town zoo too!

Coming to the zoo this Saturday. Can not wait!

Glynis Henry we could have seen her there if we went today. i'm sad now, i love her!

Why is the red panda sold out forever in advance 😩 or is it just not really an encounter

Ashley Janitz Montalvo I knew there was a sloth at the Houston zoo!

Cameron Caylor Robyn Davis Deddens apparently we can pay to meet a sloth. If you two care about my happiness WHAT SO EVER, you’ll make this happen.

We met Curly shortly after he came to Houston Zoo! So glad he's still alive and well!

Amanda Leigh Ramirez Even better! Let's chat when you get back from all your time out of the office.

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