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11 Incredible Animals in Belize

Belize is a country located on the northeastern coast of Central America. It is bordered by Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south, and the Caribbean Sea to the east. With a population of over 400,000, it is the least populated country in Central America.

Belize is known for its rich biodiversity and is home to a variety of iconic animals. Some of the most famous species found in the country include jaguars, howler monkeys, toucans, manatees, and sea turtles. The Barrier Reef off the coast of Belize is one of the largest coral reefs in the world and is home to various marine life, including sharks, rays, and awe-inspiring tropical fish.

Here is a list of 11 fascinating animals in Belize.

1. Baird’s Tapir 

Belize Animals - Baird's Tapir
  • Scientific name: Tapirus bairdii
  • Type of animal: Mammal
  • Where found in the country: Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, the Chiquibul National Park, and the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area.
  • Conservation status: Endangered

Also known as the Central American Tapir, Baird’s tapir is the national animal of Belize. 

These gentle herbivores have a distinctive prehensile nose that they use to grasp vegetation and a stout, sturdy build that makes them well-suited for life in dense forests and wetlands. 

Unfortunately, Baird’s tapir is considered a vulnerable species due to habitat loss, hunting, and other threats. Despite this, conservation efforts in Belize and other countries are helping to protect these magnificent creatures and ensure that they remain a part of our natural heritage for generations to come.

★ Did you know? While Baird’s tapir is primarily a land animal, it is indeed an excellent swimmer and can also climb steep hillsides and riverbanks with surprising agility.

2. Poison Dart Frog

Belize Animals - Poison dart frog
  • Scientific name: Family Dendrobatidae 
  • Type of animal: Amphibian
  • Where found in the country: Lowland rainforests of southern Belize and other areas with suitable habitat.
  • Conservation status: Some species are listed as endangered and others threatened

The poison dart frog is a stunning and brightly colored amphibian that is found in Central and South America. These tiny creatures come in a range of vibrant colors, from bright blue to vivid orange, and have a distinctive pattern of spots or stripes that warn predators of their toxicity. 

Poison dart frogs produce a powerful toxin in their skin that is used as a defense mechanism, making them one of the most toxic animals in the world. Despite their small size, these frogs are an important part of the rainforest ecosystem and are cherished by many cultures for their beauty and unique characteristics. 

However, like many other species in the rainforest, they are threatened by habitat loss and other factors, making conservation efforts critical for their survival

★ Did you know? Poison dart frogs are known for their bright and vibrant colors, and are widely considered to be among the most colorful and visually striking frogs in the world.

3. Jaguar

Belize Animals - Jaguar
  • Scientific name: Panthera onca
  • Type of animal: Mammal
  • Where found in the country: Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Chiquibul Forest Reserve.
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The jaguar is a stunning and powerful wild cat that is native to the Americas and is the largest cat in the Western Hemisphere. These magnificent creatures are known for their striking golden fur with black spots, as well as their incredible strength and agility. 

Jaguars are apex predators and are at the top of the food chain in their ecosystems, capable of taking down prey much larger than themselves. They are excellent swimmers and climbers, and are known for their stealthy hunting style, often ambushing their prey from above.

★ Did you know? Jaguars are an important cultural symbol for many indigenous communities throughout the Americas and have long been celebrated in art, literature, and mythology.

4. Kinkajou

Belize Animals - Kinkajou
  • Scientific name: Potos flavus
  • Type of animal: Mammal
  • Where found in the country: Throughout the forests of Belize.
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The kinkajou is a fascinating and unique creature that can be found in the lush forests of Belize and other parts of Central and South America. Also known as the “honey bear,” this small, nocturnal mammal is renowned for its prehensile tail and grasping hands, allowing it to move with agility through the trees. 

Kinkajous are primarily herbivorous, feeding on fruit, nectar, and flowers, and are important pollinators in their ecosystems.

Their soft, dense fur and big, expressive eyes make them a favorite among wildlife enthusiasts, but they are also revered in many indigenous cultures throughout the region, where they are considered a symbol of wisdom and intelligence.

★ Did you know? The kinkajou’s loud, eerie call is often described as sounding like a woman crying or screaming and is said to be one of the loudest sounds made by any animal its size. This unique vocalization is thought to serve various purposes, including communication, territorial defense, and mating.

5. Yucatan Black Howler

Belize Animals - Yucatan Black Howler
  • Scientific name: Alouatta pigra
  • Type of animal: Mammal
  • Where found in the country: Chiquibul Forest Reserve, the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, and the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area.
  • Conservation status: Endangered

The Yucatan black howler monkey is an incredible creature that can be found swinging through the dense forests of Belize and other parts of Central America. 

With their distinctive black fur and piercing yellow eyes, these arboreal primates are a sight to behold. But it’s their thunderous vocalizations that truly set them apart – their deep, guttural howls can be heard from miles away, echoing through the treetops like a primal symphony. 

Despite their intimidating size and fierce appearance, these monkeys are actually quite gentle and social creatures, living in family groups and displaying complex social behaviors. 

★ Did you know? Yucatan black howler monkeys are polygynous, meaning that one male will typically mate with multiple females within his social group. These groups usually consist of several females and their offspring, along with one or a few dominant males.

6. American Crocodile 

Belize Animals - American Crocodile
  • Scientific name: Crocodylus acutus
  • Type of animal: Reptile
  • Where found in the country: The Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, the Belize River, and the coastal lagoons and mangrove swamps along the Caribbean Sea.
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable

The American crocodile is a large and fearsome predator found in the coastal waters of Belize. These powerful reptiles can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds! 

With their razor-sharp teeth and lightning-fast reflexes, they are capable of taking down prey much larger than themselves. Despite their formidable reputation, American crocodiles are an important part of the local ecosystem, helping to control populations of smaller animals and playing a vital role in maintaining the balance of the food chain. 

While they can be dangerous to humans, they are generally shy and will usually avoid contact if possible.

★ Did you know? American crocodiles swallow stones to aid in digestion and control buoyancy in the water. The stones help to grind up food in the crocodile’s stomach, making it easier to digest. They can also help the crocodile to stay submerged in the water by adjusting their buoyancy..

7. Margay

Belize Animals - Margay
  • Scientific name: Leopardus wiedii
  • Type of animal: Mammal
  • Where found in the country: Various habitats including tropical rainforests and cloud forests.
  • Conservation status: Near Threatened

The margay is a small wild cat native to Central and South America, including Belize. It’s known for its stunning beauty and impressive agility since it is one of the few cats that can climb down trees headfirst. 

The margay is a sight to behold, especially with its striking coat of spotted fur and large, expressive eyes. However, it is also a rare and elusive creature, making sightings in the wild a special treat for those lucky enough to catch a glimpse. 

★ Did you know? Margays can jump up to 12 feet horizontally in the trees. To do this, it uses its powerful hind legs and claws and stretches out its body and legs like a flying squirrel.

8. Lowland Paca

Belize Animals - Lowland Paca
  • Scientific name: Cuniculus paca
  • Type of animal: Mammal
  • Where found in the country: Forested areas and agricultural landscapes.
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The lowland paca is an awe-inspiring mammal found in Belize and other parts of Central and South America. With their cute, rodent-like appearance and unique markings, these animals are a joy to behold. 

Despite being a popular food source for humans and predators alike, they are able to thrive in a variety of habitats and are skilled at evading danger.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or just appreciate the beauty of wildlife, the lowland paca is definitely a creature worth learning more about!

★ Did you know? The lowland paca is typically found in lowland forests and wetlands, while their cousins the mountain paca are found at higher elevations in mountainous areas.

9. Hickatee 

Belize Animals - Hickatee
  • Scientific name: Dermatemys mawii
  • Type of animal: Reptile
  • Where found in the country: Throughout Belize, primarily in freshwater rivers, streams, and lagoons.
  • Conservation status: Critically Endangered

The hickatee, also known as the Central American river turtle, is a fascinating aquatic animal found in the freshwaters of Central America. It is the only living species in its family and is considered a critically endangered species due to heavy threats from exploitation, overhunting, and pollution.

Despite its threatened status, the hickatee holds a significant cultural value among the people of Belize. It is a popular traditional dish, especially during Easter, Christmas, and La Vuta Maya, a famous canoe race in March that attracts many people. It’s meat is considered a delicacy, and it is prepared in various ways, including stew, soup, and grilled.

The hickatee is a large-bodied species, with recorded lengths of up to 60 cm (24 in) and weighing approximately 22 kg (49 lb). It has a brownish-black carapace and a yellowish plastron, making it easy to identify.

★ Did you know? Hickatees are known to have a lifespan of up to 60 years in the wild, making them one of the longest-lived species of freshwater turtles.

10. Ocelot

Belize Animals - Ocelot
  • Scientific name: Leopardus pardalis
  • Type of animal: Mammal
  • Where found in the country: From lowland forests to mountainous areas.
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The ocelot is a small wild cat native to Central and South America, including Belize. It boasts one of the most stunning fur coats known to man. Its golden fur dominates most of its body, while white or cream hues accentuate its belly. The coat is embellished with a diverse range of patterns that include black or dark brown spots artfully arranged in a doughnut shape with dark tan at the center.

Ocelots are agile hunters, able to climb trees and swim in the water, and they are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night. Although they are not considered endangered, they are still threatened by habitat loss and hunting for their fur.

★ Did you know? Ocelots are often referred to as “painted leopards” because of their striking fur coat.

11. White-nosed Coati

Belize Animals - White-nosed Coati
  • Scientific name: Nasua narica
  • Type of animal: Mammal
  • Where found in the country: The Maya Mountains, coastal lowlands, and in protected areas such as the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and the Chiquibul National Park.
  • Conservation status: Least Concern

The white-nosed coati, also known as the “pizote” or “coatimundi” is a charismatic and curious mammal that can be found exploring the forests of Belize with its long, ringed tail held high in the air. 

With its distinctive white snout and black mask-like markings around its eyes, this raccoon-like creature is both cute and intriguing. Known for their intelligence and adaptability, white-nosed coatis are expert climbers and foragers, often seen scampering up trees in search of fruit, insects, and small animals.

★ Did you know? The white-nosed coati’s snout is a remarkable adaptation that allows them to probe into tight spaces and forage for food such as insects, small mammals, and fruits.

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