Three important Zoo Ambassadors journeyed to visit the “Eco-Kids Summer Camp” at Chaa Creek recently. They met 23 kids and brought to the eager campers the zoo’s cool program, “Meet and Greet the Misunderstood”. The program is very interactive. In order to meet the first Ambassador, the one and only “Happy the Owl”, his song first had to be sung with “Elvis enthusiasm”. The room rang out with Happy the Owl’s very own signature tune, and after three go-rounds, out popped “Happy the Owl”, proud to meet his young singing admirers. “Happy” shared many Barn Owl facts. What Barn Owls eat, what makes them able to fly silently, and also, the acute hearing level of a Barn Owl, was not ignored. Barn Owls like “Happy” who live in northern climates, can detect the heartbeat of a mouse when it is three feet under the snow!
Then, each camper got the opportunity to meet “Happy” very close and give him one of his very favourite things: A scratch on the beak. Many of the eco-campers were familiar with the untrue and unkind reputation which has followed the Barn Owl throughout its range, including Belize. It is believed by many that these beautiful birds are the “bird of misery and evil”, and represent bad luck. To the contrary, as everyone learned that day from “Happy”, Barn Owls are such good friends! Eating more rats and mice than any other animal on the planet surely makes them heroes, not villains.
After “Happy the Owl” said goodbye, out from her special carry-bag appeared “Rose”, the American crocodile. A friendly crocodile? Yes, she is, and also, a very good teacher about the important role her species plays in Belizean ecology. Top predators, such as the American crocodile, work to keep habitats in balance. Without them, the environment would become much poorer in its profile. The Croc-facts were interesting, but what really got the room rocking was having the opportunity to stroke “Rose”, and hold her, too.
Of course, it was shared that Owls and Crocodiles are not to be looked upon as “pets”. Both “Rose” and “Happy” go through daily training to remain effective people-loving “Ambassadors”. Both animals would not have had a chance at life, if they had not been rescued by the zoo, and provided a good home.
The third Ambassador was none other than “Bal Boa”, the zoo’s friendly Boa Constrictor. Again, it was emphasized the important role these handsome and harmless snakes play in Belize. Zoo Educator, Jamal Andrewin, carried “Bal Boa” around the room, and also, reflected upon the sad issue of people selling Boa Constrictors to certain Chinese living in Belize, for food. Not only does this reflect poorly on how some people choose to treat our very special natural resources, but it is also illegal.
It was all fun and exciting education. Zoo Ambassadors, “Happy”, “Rose”, and “Bal Boa”, spent a special time with the Chaa Creek Eco-Kids , and left behind a TON of knowledge and happy memories.