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Belize Zoo Director Discusses SUNY Cortland-Belize Project on Oct. 27

Belize Zoo Director Discusses SUNY Cortland-Belize Project on Oct. 27


Sharon Matola, director of the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center and an internationally renowned conservation biologist, will discuss her work with the zoo and her fight to save endangered habitats and species on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at SUNY Cortland.

Matola’s talk, titled “One Woman’s Fight To Save the Most Beautiful Bird in the World: The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw,” begins at 7 p.m. in the Sperry Center, Room 204.

Sponsored primarily by the Belize Zoo and coordinated by the Belize Zoo Project at SUNY Cortland, her talk is free and open to the public. 

Matola, who has been called the “Jane Goodall of the jaguar,” will discuss recent developments in the overall struggle for preserving endangered habitats during her public lecture.

She has been invited to spend a week on campus as a visitor-in-residence from Oct. 25-30.

On Oct. 28, she will be the guest of honor at “Cortland the Margay’s First Birthday Party” during the Wellness Wednesday Series Coffeehouse in the College’s Corey Union Exhibition Lounge. At 7 p.m., SUNY Cortland's Rock 'N Blues Ensemble, under the direction of Steven Barnes, will open for the local favorite Tribal Revival. The event will last until 11 p.m., during which refreshments and a birthday cake for the Belize Zoo wildcat named Cortland will be served. Donations to benefit the Belize Zoo will be accepted.

Matola will visit several SUNY Cortland classrooms to share her knowledge, expertise and passion in areas relevant to students in education, biology and zoology, Latin American studies, public policy, ecotourism and anthropology. She will also meet with students interesting in volunteering with the zoo and will visit area public schools.

“Since all our students in many fields cannot travel to Belize and the Belize Zoo, we hope to bring something of the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center to SUNY Cortland,” said SUNY Cortland Professor of Political Science Thomas Pasquarello, who serves as the campus Belize Zoo Project liaison.

The zoo, which greets 15,000 school children a year, is one of the premier conservationist organizations operating in Belize. The zoo receives no government funding.

Over the past two decades, Matola and the zoo have become world famous for their focus on the restoration of the Harpy eagle species, the Central American macaw and jaguar habitat restoration. Her efforts to stop a large-scale dam project are documented in the book by Bruce Barcott, Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird. Matola has visited SUNY Cortland before to give the keynote lecture at the College’s International Education Week.

Created under the auspices of the existing Cortland-Belize Partnership, the Belize Zoo Project was founded on the SUNY Cortland campus to help further develop the zoo. Supported by students, faculty and friends in the community, the project provides SUNY Cortland students and community members with opportunities to complete internships and do other kinds of meaningful volunteer work at the zoo.

“Ms. Matola visited briefly several years ago and not surprisingly was received enthusiastically by the College community,” Pasquarello said. “Given the growing interest in environmental matters and in the kind of volunteerism that students are demonstrating towards the zoo, this is an appropriate and timely visit.”

For information about the Belize Zoo Project at SUNY Cortland, visit Pasquarello’s zoo blog at For details about the lecture or benefit concert, contact Thomas Pasquarello at (607) 753-5772. To learn more about the zoo, visit the Web site at