One of Belize’s main attractions and quite possibly one of the seven (or eighth) wonders of the world is The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary. This spectacular sanctuary consists of forests, fauna and watersheds, approximately 150 square miles of tropical forest located at the eastern slopes of the Maya mountains, and is the world’s only Jaguar Preserve.
This unique lush jungle ringed by the spectacular Cockscomb Mountains, was declared a Forest Preserve in 1984 and finally a Jaguar Preserve in 1986. Besides being the home to hundreds of species of plants with exotic leaves and flowers, colorful insects, singing birds, furry mammals, scaly reptiles, and wide-eyed amphibians, the sanctuary is home to all five of Belize’s cats: Jaguar, Puma, Margay, Jaguarundi, and Ocelot. It is estimated that over 80 resident Jaguars are in the area.
The sights and diversity are accessible to both the casual visitor and the serious naturalist through a series of nature trails. Cockscomb is the perfect location for birdwatchers; its bird population boasts up to 300 recorded species. These include Macaw, the Great Curossow and Keel-billed Toucan.
The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is threaded with Mayan culture; a well concealed minor Maya ceremonial site known as Chucil Baluum soars over the basin to the north. The highest mountain in Belize is Victoria Peak at 3,675 feet presides majestically over the range!
A focal feature is Cockscomb’s magical pathways, an extensive and beautiful trail network, the vastest of any reserve in the country. The River Overlook and Warrie Trails are usually the best walkways for seeing memorable wildlife. The Jaguars also hike these trails and find it an easy way to comb the jungle.
Some groups of Maya, known as the jaguar people, worshipped the jaguar or “Baalum” believing their kings would reincarnate into these cats and so killing a jaguar was a serious crime, punishable by death.
The jaguar is the third largest cat in the world after the tiger and lion, and is the only member of the large cat genus to live in the Americas. An adult male can weigh up to 200 lbs and measure 6 ½ feet from nose to tail. The International List of Endangered Species declared the jaguar in need of international protection. Habitat loss and retaliatory killing continue to threaten the survival of the species. Populations have been greatly reduced in areas where humans have settled.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is doing whatever they can to save the majestic jaguars. WWF is providing big cat lovers with the opportunity to adopt a jaguar (gifts.worldwildlife.org/gift-center/gifts/Species-Adoptions/Jaguar.aspx) and help save this rare animal! Even Jaguar Cars is rallying support for their namesake, and now so can you!
“The Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is a magical place where wonders and diversity are accessible to both the casual and serious visitor,” commented Mark Nolan from the World Wildlife Fund.
Let’s pounce on the opportunity to save the sleek jaguar and protect this regal big cat from extinction forever….
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