Sharon Matola talks about the “best little zoo in the world,” the Belize Zoo, and its jaguar rehabilitation program. Often referred to as the “Jane Goodall of jaguars,” Matola describes to “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme her work with “problem” jaguars who have killed livestock and how she trains them to be less aggressive. She notes that typically her rehabilitated jaguars have a health ailment that prevented them from successfully hunting wild prey and prompted them to turn to domestic livestock for food. This is the first of a two-part interview. Part 2 addresses her work with tapirs and her fight to save Belize’s last scarlet macaws.
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 13, 2010.