Sharon Matola, founder and director of the Belize Zoo, discusses her work with tapirs and her fight to save Belize’s last scarlet macaws. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how her fight to stop the Challilo hydroelectric dam on Belize’s Macal River, which threatened numerous rare species, including the country’s last scarlet macaws, resulted in the government branding her an enemy of the state. This fight was documented in the book “The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird” by Bruce Barcott. We also talk about tapirs and learn how one very special one, Tambo, is poised to become a true animal ambassador. This is the second of a two-part interview. Part 1 addresses what makes the Belize Zoo the “best little zoo in the world” and also her work with jaguar rehabilitation.
Sharon Matola is an American-born, motorcycle-riding, lion-taming, monkey-smuggling Air Force veteran who’s fluent in Russian and an expert in jungle survival, mushrooms and tapir biology. In 1983, she started the Belize Zoo as a home for a collection of 17 wild animals used in a documentary film she’d worked on about tropical forests. Today, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center has grown to about 170 animals, including jaguars, tapirs, harpy eagles and macaws. Sharon is best known for is her work rescuing and rehabilitating rare creatures and is often referred to as the Doctor Doolittle of Belize or else the “Jane Goodall of jaguars.” In addition to serving as Director of the Belize Zoo, she hosts a regular radio program on BFBS Radio in Belize and is author of several books, including a series about Hoodwink the Owl for schoolchildren, one about Junior Buddy, one of the zoo’s most famous jaguars, and another called Tambo the Tapir, which is forthcoming. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on December 20, 2010.