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Apr 3, 2019

Meet Perla and Shadow – the littlest jaguarundis at the Belize Zoo

How much do you know about the jaguarundi? These small cats are native to parts of North, Central and South America. They are not just commonly found in the forests of Belize, but there’s also a growing exhibit in captivity at the Belize Zoo. Today, we found out why many zoos around the world want two of the youngest jaguarundis born at the Belize Zoo. Reporter Andrea Polanco reports.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Meet Perla and Shadow – two of the newest residents at the Belize Zoo. These two little jaguarundis are about two months old.  The Belize Zoo has managed to successfully see the species breed for many years in captivity – and today it may be one of the few or the only zoo in the world to see such success with the breeding of the jaguarundi.  Although there is healthy population of the species at the Zoo, these two were still a surprise when they were born.


Sharon Matola

Sharon Matola, Founding Director, The Belize Zoo

“We didn’t expect Nina and Manny to produce two kittens but one day the keeper went in to check and there were these two little kitty-cats. They are just two months old now but interestingly, the Belize Zoo is the one zoo that has had such grand success in breeding the species.”


Andrea Polanco

“Why do you think that is?”


Sharon Matola

“I think the environment is jaguarundi friendly. They like what they eat. They are treated really well and it is no stress and high enjoyment level, which we try to do with all our animals. And so we have been seeing a lot of breeding recently and so I think that happy animals breed.”


The birth of Perla and Shadow is not just special for the Belize Zoo. Many zoos across the world have their eyes on these two little jaguarundis. As Founding Director of the Belize Zoo Sharon Matola explains, many Zoos have not been able to get the species to breed in captivity. So, now they are hoping that Belize Zoo would consider them worthy homes for the pair. Matola says she wants to see the kittens in a home where they can get the same special treatment that they are used to. But letting go of these two will be tough.


Sharon Matola

“We are pleased about that because those zoos have no access to jaguarundis. There is one zoo in particular; the Arizona Desert Museum Zoo just has local species to educate people. And we have been considering sending Shadow and Perla to them because these zoos are great zoos and give good care. And we have many jaguarundis so it is nice collaboration across border which which I enjoy seeing happen.  Saying good-bye is one of the hardest things to do. You just have to kind of on where they are going is a good healthy environment.”


Today, the Perla and Shadow are just hanging out with their mom Nina where they live in this big enclosure. As you can see, they are not shy. They like to play and be around each other. They also have no problem to challenge each other for food. The pair of wildcats makes for a great addition to growing jaguarundi exhibit at the Zoo. These two are already a hit with the children and other visitors.


Sharon Matola

“When they were first given the option to come out and wander around the big area they were really shy and we couldn’t get them out. But then they saw momma go out and they followed momma. Now, they are completely comfortable and add a lot of enjoyment to zoo visits. As you can see when you came in, we had a ton of school kids here and we get over fourteen thousand school kids a year here at the zoo, so the more they learn about the precious wildlife in Belize the more they will respect it and better it would be for the wildlife.”


The jaguarundi is the second smallest wild cat in Belize. They play a big role in controlling the population of mice, rats, rabbits and other agricultural pests. They eat rodents, small birds, frogs and fish. Orphaned brothers Buster and Bruno live next door to Nina and her kittens. These two are a ball of energy and jump as high as six feet in the air. They showed off their acrobatic skills today for a special treat of chicken parts. And this kind of performance you wouldn’t see in the wild – as a matter of fact, you may live all your life and never see a jaguarundi in its natural habitat.


Sharon Matola

“That is why the Zoo is so important. The only time people really see them is when they dash across the road to get to the side and then they will see a jaguarundi. But basically they are very secretive cats. Look how they blend in with the environment. So, they are not a cat you would readily see if you go out into the forest.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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