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Apr 26, 2013

Belize Zoo’s April, the tapir celebrates a milestone

To many of you watching this, the news that a new Miss Belize was crowned today will come as a big surprise. The venue was the Belize Zoo and Education Center and the occasion was a very special one – the thirtieth birthday of a celebrity who over the years has become the face of the zoo. Today News Five was invited to the birthday celebration of April the Tapir, and joined the many friends and guests there for what is always a memorable event. Freelance reporter Mike Rudon has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

One of the highlights of today’s birthday bash for April included her symbolic crowning as Miss Belize, complete with crown and sash. It was actually a papier-mache replica of the famous tapir, and the ceremonial crowning was done by four students of the Buena Vista school in Spanish Lookout, who won a contest by choosing the perfect slogan to represent April.


Angela Amaya, Buena Vista School

“We wanted it so the name of the tapir, April, could stand out and everybody could see the name of the tapir and we wanted to show our respect for her because she is the national animal of Belize.”


April has come a long, long way from her arrival at the zoo thirty years ago.


Sharon Matola, Director, Belize Zoo

“She was found dying by the river. She had a bad, bad infestation from a parasite and she was brought to me in the hands of a hunter. That’s big she was; we all thought she was going to die.”


But she survived, and today devoured her special birthday cake while she was first feted by the Panerrifix steel band from Belmopan and then serenaded by the guests invited to share her special day. But while it is April’s day, the woman who saved her life and cherished her these past thirty years was justifiably excited and proud.


Sharon Matola

Sharon Matola

“Thirty years of April is astounding. I think just having the crowd of people here and the enthusiasm. I have realized the impact one animal has had on our nation. They are important animals, they are endangered and they are ours. And it is events like these that will make sure that these kids, when they have kids, they can know that our national animal is still in our forest and that we can be very proud of that. And we will be.”


Matola says that Belize should be a role model for the rest of the world, as the work which is being done at the zoo is important and even more than that, it is being done right.


Sharon Matola

“Somebody said to me a long time ago that the work we are doing now will become even that much more important twenty years down the road. And that’s how I feel. What we are trying to save is all under threat. Our animals need our protection and they are important for the health of the people. You cannot separate wild life conservation from the good life that a person needs. Conservation and development, hand in hand uniformed. And I think we could achieve that and I think that Belize could be a role model for the world on how it is done and done right.”


In the early days Matola says that it was the excitement of the kids that got her through many challenging times. That excitement was still visible today, in both the children and in those who are passionate about their work at the zoo.


Sharon Matola

“When it started, who was gonna take me seriously? I was a kid and starting a zoo. But you know what, what kept me going were the people of Belize. When I started to get the kids to come in and they would come back to their houses and sit over dinner and be so excited about seeing animals, it sort of spread little by little like a carpet of flowers. Important things don’t happen overnight and I was ready to commit my life to it and boy am I ever glad I did.”


Jamal Andrewin-Bohn

Jamal Andrewin-Bohn – Environmental Educator

“It’s the finest hour for myself as an educator here at the zoo and for the whole department—I’m sure for Miss Sharon as well—this is what we live for; this is what we plan for, April’s Birthday. We got Junior and all the others. They may be more famous than April internationally, but April will always be the Belizean icon. Even when she is dead, she’ll have that legacy put on being our national animal. Despite the weather, it kind of brings your jaw full circle and that you’ve done this and instill it in some of the kids and it is passed on in that way. It is something that goes on every year and they keep coming back for the same. We have schools competing to get here now. They get frustrated when they can’t make it for April’s birthday. So that is the kind of thing that we want; the energy the positive feeling when they think about animals, about our wildlife. It is all about involvement; that’s what we want.”


Ruth Gonzalez, Buena Vista School

Ruth Gonzalez

“I’m proud to be here because it’s the national animal of Belize.”


Tania Galindo, Buena Vista School

“I’m happy because we all need to protect our national animal and today is her birthday and we need to accept it.”


Angela Amaya

Angela Amaya, Buena Vista School

“I am excited that it had been thirty days that the tapir, the national animal of Belize. I never thought we were going to make it.


Alva Cabrera, Buena Vista School

“I’m proud of being here in this day celebrating the tapir birthday. I never thought that we would make it because I thought our logo wasn’t good enough. This is because the slogan was not good enough. But then protection is the best thing and then we are trying to protect the tapir and then we have to respect them.”


Schools from all over the country will be spending time with April on this memorable day, eating cake, playing games and just hanging with a Belizean icon, still looking great at thirty. Mike Rudon for News Five.


And if you think that April is getting a whole lot of attention, well she is, and she deserves it. After all, she is the oldest female tapir living in captivity in the world, which is quite a distinction. Also of note is that Belize has the largest population of tapirs in Central America. 

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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1 Response for “Belize Zoo’s April, the tapir celebrates a milestone”

  1. Storm says:

    Happy Birthday, April. You may have turned 30, but I’ll always think of you as a young lady in your prime.

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