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Jul 28, 2003

New eagle exhibit opens at zoo

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Belize is the new home for five Harpy Eagles brought in from Panama over the last several months. Four have been released into the wild, while on Saturday one made its debut at the Belize Zoo. Speaking at the occasion, Rick Watson of the Peregrine Foundation, explained what the programme is all about.

Rick Watson, Peregrine Fund

“We started working with the Harpy Eagle a bit more than…about fifteen years ago. We recognise that it’s a large forest raptor; it’s very special, has special behaviour and biology and would required particular attention when trying to breed it in captivity and release them back into the wild. So we’ve invested a great deal of time, effort and money in getting to this point. Now that we’re at a point where we are fairly confident we can breed these birds in captivity repeatedly, and with some certainty, now is the time to start releasing them back in the wild and restoring populations where the species has been lost or depleted.”

Sharon Matola, Director, Belize Zoo

“Right now as I speak, there are four Harpy Eagles–soft released–in the forest, in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve at Las Cuevas. But it couldn’t have happened with the beautiful co-operation of the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Peregrine Fund, the Belize Zoo, Las Ceuvas and Rio Bravo and Programme for Belize. So it’s extraordinary and it’s going to become a shining symbol of positive conservation acts in Central America.”

Johnny Briceño, Min. of Natural Resources

“Nature based tourism is one of the faster growing industries in this country. It has been creating hundreds and hundreds of jobs. It has been bringing in millions of dollars into this country and it has been creating economic opportunities for our people. And it is because of people like Sharon and also the Belize Zoo that Belize has been on the map. And it is important for us as a people to be able to protect this beautiful jewel of ours.”

The Peregrine Fund was established over thirty years ago in the U.S. to prevent the extinction of the Peregrine Falcon through captive breeding and release. The Harpy Eagles brought to Belize were among seventeen born in captivity in Panama during 2002.

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