With the release of dozens of tropical butterflies, director Alex van Hooff and Omar Figueroa, Belizean Minister of State for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment and Sustainable Development, officially opened Burgers’ Mangrove on Wednesday afternoon, 12 July. With a surface area of 3000 m2, Burgers’ Mangrove is the largest indoor mangrove in the world. It is home to manatees, butterflies, fiddler crabs, birds, and fish. The manatees have 1 million litres of water at their disposal.
Together with Swiss butterfly park Papiliorama, Burgers’ Zoo has been protecting 235 km2 of nature reserve in the Central American country of Belize for 28 years. The mangrove forest is an important part of the nature reserve. Burgers’ Mangrove serves as an ambassador for the beauty and diversity of the plants and animals that live in the nature reserve in Belize. For more information, visit www.csfi.bz.
Mangroves are extreme habitats for plants: they are situated along tropical coasts, where exceptional amounts of sunlight can burn leaves, and where plant roots are flooded with salt water at high tide. Only 110 plant species are found in mangroves worldwide, out of close to 380,000 plant species. Only 40 of those are found exclusively in mangroves, making them true specialists.
The plants are given ample time to grow into a natural mangrove forest. The section of the Mangrove where the butterflies will mainly stay will become a tropical dry forest, with nectar plants as a food source for the adult butterflies and host plants as a food source for the caterpillars. The populations of animals such as horseshoe crabs, upside-down jellyfish, and hermit crabs will also be given all the necessary room to grow naturally. The same goes for the variety of bird and fish species we are introducing. This ecosystem also has a vulnerable natural balance between all the animal and plant species. The biologists and animal caretakers will need to anticipate and respond to every new development to grow closer to a natural ecosystem. More animal species will be gradually added to the system in the next few years, and a variety of plant species will be cultivated behind the scenes. As was the case for the opening of the Bush (tropical rainforest), the Desert (rocky desert), the Ocean (tropical coral reef), and the Rimba (Malaysian jungle), Burgers’ Zoo has opted to give the Mangrove plenty of time to further develop itself naturally. The Mangrove will become more beautiful, more complex, and more fascinating every year.