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Nov 25, 2015

The Belize Zoo Celebrates Panama’s Birthday

The spectacled owl, the black hawk-eagle and the harpy eagle are three predatory birds that exist in Belize’s ecosystem. Their species are being conserved here in Belize since they are often times killed by residents because there is a misconception about their purpose in the wild. But The Belize Zoo and other partner organizations are looking to change that using ambassador birds such as Panama, a harpy eagle that was bred in captivity. Today, students and tourists joined in on a birthday celebration for Panama. News Five’s Duane Moody was there and has this report.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Today, the Belize Zoo celebrated the birthday of Panama, a captive-bred harpy eagle imported from its namesake country. The predatory bird has a small population in the forests of Belize, Guatemala and Mexico and several years ago, about sixteen of them were released into wild in the northern part of Belize. Due to an injury at birth, however, Panama was not released and is now an ambassador and educator for the Belize Zoo.

 

Jamal Andrewin-Bohn

Jamal Andrewin-Bohn, Senior Environmental Educator, Belize Zoo

“Panama as always; he is a harpy eagle. He is the biggest raptor in the country and they represent a very important part of Belize’s culture as well as Belize’s ecology. Birds are a big part of tourism for Belize. In terms of the ecology, birds help us by keeping rodents, rats, snakes and all these pest species under control. So they have a very important role in the environment and that is something that we try to stress to the teachers, parents and students that join us on these events.  Particularly now, we think it is very relevant because even in this day and age, we still have a lot of misconceptions about our wildlife.”

 

But the celebration was even bigger because on the occasion of Panama’s twelfth birthday, two other birds of prey—Luna, a spectacled owl and Ackna, a black hawk eagle—were also on exhibit at the festivities. This was courtesy of the Belize Raptor Center that rehabilitates raptors specifically for education. This conservation organization is currently seeking funding and complements the work being done at the Zoo.

 

Sarah Mann

Sarah Mann, Director, Belize Raptor Center

“We do conservation of birds of prey, but we focus on education so we can do, we can help out birds, but we like to focus on the children because they are the ones that are going to be protecting them; they are the ones that shoot them most of the time.”

 

Duane Moody

“Talk to us about the two birds and the presentations that you are doing today”

 

Sarah Mann

“So I have Ackna who is our black hawk eagle. She came from Black Rock Lodge along the Macal [River]; that’s where she was found. She has the characteristic of a hawk, she hunts like an eagle, she is very powerful; she is the largest of the three that we have in Belize. Luna, everyone’s favorite. Luna means moon because she is an owl. She hunts at night—dawn and dusk with Luna—but a lot of owls hunt during the night; they are nocturnal. So she is a spectacle owl found along on the Hummingbird Highway.”

 

As students from both Wesley High School and the St. Joseph Primary School from Cotton Tree joined in the party, they were greeted by a six feet tall Harpy Eagle Mascot. Jamal Andrewin-Bohn says that it adds to the experience for the youths.

 

Jamal Andrewin-Bohn

“Today, one of the highlights is our brand new Harpy Eagle costume made by Jonathan Urbina of the Peregrine Fund. And so the mascot I think is just as effective as seeing the bird in real life. It is something that we can use to engage children, but also use to take out to schools. So it is something that they can identify with.”

 

And it was indeed an experience like no other for the students.

 

Anaria Burgess

Anaria Burgess, Student, Wesley High School

“They were telling us about the harpy eagle is at the top of the food chain and the harpy eagle sees better in the day than the night. The harpy eagle doesn’t ‘gree well with the eagle that is in the night world.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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