National Symbols of Belize
There are many unusual birds, fish and animals who call Belize home. Over the years, a handful of them have become representatives of the country. Here’s a look at Belize’s national symbols.
The keel-billed toucan also sports the name “rainbow-billed toucan” because of its enormous bill striped in red, blue, orange and yellow.
Toucans live high in the jungle canopy and rarely descend to the forest floor. They gather food in the early morning, when they swoop acrobatically to the lower branches to gather fruits and insects. They live in flocks of up to 20 birds. Belizeans are familiar with the distinctive morning calls of these striking birds.
Mountain Tapir or Baird’s Tapir
Once considered a pest, Baird’s tapir is now one of Belize’s most beloved animals. The tapir is the largest tropical land mammal. Tapirs have stout bodies with short legs. They can reach 600 pounds in weight. They live on grasses, water plants, leaves and fruits.
Belizeans once hunted tapirs into near extinction. A tapir named Alice who lived at the Belize Zoo for many years helped change public opinion about these gentle giants. Today, it is illegal to hunt tapirs and Belizeans are proud of their “mountain cow.”
This exotic, unusually colored plant is Belize’s national flower. It grows on trees in damp forests and blooms all year. Its blooms are not black. They’re a deep, velvety purple color.
In popular culture, black orchids symbolize mystery and magic. It is illegal to buy and sell black orchids in Belize. You must wait to see one in the wild.
The magnificent mahogany tree grows in Belize’s forests. When Belize was a British colony, the timber industry destroyed many of these forests. Today, mahogany trees stand tall all over the country.
Mahogany trees are impressive and elegant. A mahogany tree takes about 80 years to reach full maturity. It can grow to 100 feet or more. It has dark wood and produces white flowers in the spring.
Although the jade head is not considered a national symbol, this iconic Maya artifact is important enough to earn a place on Belize’s currency. Anthropologists believe the head dates to about 650 AD.
At more than 10 pounds, it is the largest jade sculpture found in a Maya ruin. The giant jade head represents Kinich Ahau, the Maya god of the sun. Two Belizean men discovered the head while they were working with the archaeologist David Pendergast. They unearthed it at Altun Ha in 1968.