Six iconic Belizean Animals from
Chaa Creek’s Nature Reserve
Nice to know we have so many animal lovers out there!
After last week’s blog post detailing the arboreal antics of the Belizean kinkajou we’ve been asked to say more about some of the many other species that call Belize home. We’re happy to comply, as within Chaa Creek’s 365 acre private nature reserve alone lives a collection of exotic wildlife that Noah himself would find amazing. So the problem is, where to start?
We decided to begin with some of the more iconic Belizean animals that are known to inhabit forests, rivers and paddocks surrounding Chaa Creek, and wanted to give a cross section that shows the diversity of species that contributes to interdependent web of life around us.
Here we go:
1. Black Howler Monkey
The Black Howler, aka baboon in Belize, is our largest monkey and indeed one of the biggest in all the Americas. Chaa Creek’s guests are familiar with the sounds of these very vocal primates, who use the distinctive reverberating growl to identify and defend their territory. This is the loudest sound any Belizean animal makes, and If you wake up in the night thinking that T-Rex is outside, relax, it’s just the baboons doing their thing.
And to further put you at ease, fierce though they may sound, Howler Monkeys are strict vegetarians, feeding on flowers, fruits and leaves that the troops of between 4 and 8 members forage within their own territory, which can range from three to twenty-five acres.
Howler Monkey Specs:
Length: 2 feet, with a 30″ tail
Weight: 15 lbs.
Reaches Maturity: 4 Years, highly social
Mates year round with approx. 180 days gestation
Bears one infant
Habitat: Lowland forests.
Eats: Fruit, leaves, flowers
Lifespan: 20 years
2. Keel-Billed Toucan
The Keel Billed Toucan is the national bird of Belize and one of her most recognised animals.
Even though the huge yellow, orange, red, green and black bill looks cumbersome, it is surprisingly dextrous and well adapted for feeding.Primarily fruit eaters, a toucan will nip fruits off at the stem and flip its head back to gulp them down. Toucans also enjoy insects, lizards, snakes and sometimes the eggs of other birds.
The toucan’s call is asdistinctive as its brightly coloured bill and many visitors at first suppose the creaking sound comes from a frog. These are social birds, often seen flying in groups.
Toucans are found throughout Belize’s forests where they nest in holes in tree trunks, laying up to four eggs which the parent take turns incubating.
Size: about 20 inches
Range: Southern Mexico to Northern Columbia
Habitat:Lowland forests and forest borders
Eats:Fruits, insects, reptiles, bird eggs.
3. Baird’s Tapir
In Belize the tapir is known as the “mountain cow” and can be seen foraging along river banks and forest clearings. Feeding on grasses and vegetation growing along river banks as well as leaves, buds, and fruits of the low-growing shrubs, hungry tapirs will also raid corn fields and other crops.
For something so cumbersome looking, the tapir is a very good swimmer and quite agile on steep hillsides and river banks. For the most part solitary, except when with young, they range widely as they forage about for food. People occasionally come across them while bushwalking, and while tapirs generally flee when surprised, they are also known to stamp their feet loudly and whistle.
The Baird’s Tapir ranges from Southern Mexico to Northern Columbia and have been declared endangered due to hunting and loss of habitat.
Length: 6 feet
Weight: 300 – 500 lbs.
Reaches Maturity at 3 Years
Mates year round with 13 months gestation
Bears one baby
Habitat: Riverine forest
Eats: Riparian vegetation
Lifespan: 22 years
While chances of seeing these majestic nocturnal catsare slim, we occassionally come across paw prints, scat and other signs that they are around. The largest and most powerful cat in the Western Hemisphere, jaguars are also known in Belize as tigres, where they once roamed the entire country and are still found mainly in the lowland forests and along the coasts. They have a large protected range in the Cockscomb Basin where adult jaguars maintain a territory of some 20 square kilometres. Once hunted in Belize, they are now respected and protected.
Length: 6 feet with a 30 inch tail
Weight: 100 – 250 lbs.
Reaches Maturity: 3 Years
Mates year round with approx. 100 days gestation:
Bears 1-4 cubs
Habitat: Lowland forests, solitary.
Eats: mammals, fish, frogs, turtles
Lives to 12-15 years in the wild; 20-25 years in captivity
Called the “tiger cat” in Belize, these nocturnal little felines spend most of their time in the forest canopy, which makes them very difficult to spot in the wild. This is a shame, aslarge eyes and gorgeous markings make them one of Belize’s most striking animals.
Margays are also the only cats with ankle joints that rotate in such a way as to allow them to climb headfirst down trees, a very useful adaptation for hunting rats, squirrels, opossums, monkeys and birds.
No one knows for certain how many Margays are out there, as they are so shy and good at hiding, but they’ve been listed as endangered animals due to hunting and loss of habitat. They range from Mexico to Argentina, with Belize thought to have one of the most vibrant populations in Central America.
Length: 2 feet + 18″ tail
Weight: 20 lbs
Mates year round
Bears 1 to 2 cubs
Habitat: Forests, solitary.
Eats: small animals, birds, reptiles, insects
6. Boa Constrictor
Known as the “wowla” in Belize, boa constrictors are the country’s largest snake by far, found throughout the mainland as well as on some cayes. They don’t mind populated areas either, especially where rodents and birds are to be found.
Boas can get up to twelve feet in length and vary in colour from brown to grey with irregular saddles down the entire dorsal body. They have large curved teeth useful for holding prey before constricting them to death.
Boas love birds, rodents and small mammals, and will take lizards and iguanas. When threatened, a boa will hiss and strike. Although they are not poisonous, their bites can be painful, but they are not aggressive and, if left along, will quietly go their own way. A female may give birth to as many as fifty young at one time.
Length: Up to 12 feet
Habitat:Rainforest, savannah, mangrove swamp, mainland and the offshore Cayes
Eats: Small mammals, birds, reptiles
Of course, there are many, many more animals in Belize, where large tracts of protected wilderness, low population density and a strong environmental ethos make for ideal living conditions for many species.
We do hope that this representation here gives you an idea of the vast diversity of wildlife to be found, and whets your appetite to learn more. Chaa Creek’s Natural History Centre is another great place to start, and our highly trained, licenced professional nature guides are always available to answer questions and guide guests in the right direction.
Yes, a visit to Chaa Creek has all the advantages of being in an ark, but without the cramped quarters and possibility of seasickness. Bring binoculars and be ready for some of the best nature hikes on the planet.