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5 Best Species To See In Belize

Belize is home to a number of different, unique species but here is our list of the five best ones to see while you're in the country...

West Indian Manatee

Flickr | Keith Ramos via U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceOften referred to as gentle and majestic creatures, in the past the Manatee was occasionally mistaken for a mermaid by sailors but has more recently adopted the name of ‘sea cow’ due to its feeding habits. The mangroves and sea grass found on the coast of Belize provide the West Indian Manatee with an ideal feeding ground. Characterized by its large, seal-like body and paddle-shaped tail, they can range from gray to brown in colour and uniquely, the manatee boasts an exclusive feature in which it is able to constantly replace its front, worn teeth with new ones. In Belize the Manatee can be found in rivers, lagoons, in estuaries and around coastal areas but like most other variants of its species, it prefers to remain in shallow water and is unable to survive in cold waters.

Find out more about the dedicated Manatee Conservation Project we run in Belize

The Jaguarundi

Flickr | Fábio ManfrediniWhile Belize sports an impressive number of unique marine species, it is also renowned for its bizarre land-dwelling creatures. Five different species of wildcats call the Belize rainforest their home and the second smallest of that group is the Jaguarundi, with the other four comprising of the Jaguar, Mountain Lion, Ocelot and Margay. A smaller relative to the elusive Jaguar, the Jaguarundi is darker in colour and is perhaps one of the strangest looking of the wildcats. The Jaguarundi is one of the few cat species to not have a contrasting colouring on the back of their ears. With their elongated bodies, small flattened heads, short legs, small and closely set eyes, long tails and unmarked coat, they resemble that of an otter or weasel more than they do a cat of any sort.

Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks

Flickr | thundafunda via flickker photosIt is not uncommon to spot a Hammerhead Shark just off the coast of Belize. Defined and named after their peculiar head shape, the Hammerheads are distinctive and never become a bore to spot in the ocean. This species of shark uses their bizarre shaped head as a hunting tool and with eyes situated on either end of their head, they can actually see much better than most other sharks. The diet of the Hammerhead Shark is quite varied and they use senses located along their head to send out electrical charges that allows them to locate prey that has buried itself beneath the sand of the seabed. Despite their large size, Hammerheads are not defined as an aggressive species of shark and aren’t considered to be dangerous to humans.

Find out more about the dedicated Shark Conservation Project we run in Belize

Manta Rays

Flickr | Ken FUNAKOSHIThe Manta Rays are the largest of the rays and can be distinguished by their triangular body shape, broad head and the horn shaped fins located on either side of their mouth. They are known to live up to at least 50 years old but it is suspected that they can surpass this age and even reach nearly double that! Often referred to as the ‘gigantic birds’ of the sea, with a wingspan that can reach 20 feet it isn’t hard to see why and yet despite their enormous size, the rays mainly feed on plankton. The Mantas are typically found in the open ocean but they can often be seen visiting reefs to feed and be cleaned, which are the times when they are most likely to be viewed in Belize.

Baird’s Tapir

Flickr | Eric KilbyNo Belizean species list would be complete without a mention of the Baird’s Tapir as it is, after all, the national animal of Belize. The Tapir is the largest land mammal of Central America and can be found actively foraging at night along the river banks and clearings within the forests. Typically the Tapir will range over a large territory and they spend roughly 90% of their time foraging for food. Today the Tapirs in Belize are protected by laws preventing the hunting of them and there are a number of large forest reserves set up to provide them with a safe place to live. The Tapir itself could be defined as an odd looking animal, with its pig-shaped body and long nose like that of an anteater. This combined with the fact that its appearance has changed very little over the past 35 million years makes it look quite outdated and prehistoric in comparison to the rhinos and horses that it is related to.

By Shannon Clark - Online Journalism Intern

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