Beloved Beliza: Zoo prepares to say goodbye to jaguar


EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – How many eyes has Beliza the jaguar seen? Since she came to Evansville from Boston in 2007, it must be tens of thousands or more. Each one makes a special connection.

The big cat at Mesker Park Zoo has fostered a special love for more than a decade, but our visitor from the Amazon has little time left.

Beliza is dying from cancer, and all her keepers can do is make her final days the best they can be.

The zoo’s 13-year-old jaguar has brought joy to countless people, including Paul Bouseman, deputy director at Mesker Park.

“She is a beautiful animal, she has a beautiful spirit,” he said.

Beliza means “beautiful” in Portuguese, the language spoken in Brazil where jaguars call home.

If there’s one thing you can learn by visiting, it’s that Beliza is much more than a wild animal. If you go now, you may never know anything is wrong with her.

“I think Beliza came to personify what the Amazonia exhibit meant to this community,” said animal curator, Susan Lindsey.

Beliza and Cuxtal, her male partner in the exhibit, have sparked imagination and inspired a love of animals across the Tri-State. So often, our day to day can be a drag, but the big cats open a world of wonder and amazement.

“These animals have a lot to teach us,” Lindsey said. “There’s anxiety and anticipation, and excitement; to see that written on people’s faces.”

Mesker Park staff doesn’t know how long Beliza has, but they don’t anticipate her to make it to March for her 14th birthday. They’re planning to celebrate it soon.

Many might say she is the face of Mesker Park Zoo. If there’s any doubt what cats mean there, just look up at the animal on the logo.

“We know we have given her a quality life and we will do that to the end,” said Lindsey. “They always take a piece of your heart with them.”

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This story was originally published on September 18, 2019

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