D can attest to the fact that I have not stopped squealing at my pictures of the adorably cute Patagonian mara ever since our visit to the Buenos Aires Zoo (seriously, I have its picture as my phone wallpaper and I squeal every time I turn on my phone). But those little unique creatures weren’t the only good reason for spending an afternoon at the zoo. In this Part 2, I am sharing some pictures and information about the gorgeous zoo itself.
The Buenos Aires Zoo started as a park with only a small area for animals, and opened its doors as a zoo in 1888. The early directors of the zoo designed the beautiful parks, lakes, and buildings, and successfully promoted the zoo as a recreational area for visitors. However, from the mid 1900’s onwards, the zoo saw decades of steady deterioration until it was privatized in 1991, when efforts to improve the zoo resumed and a program was put in place to get the animals out from behind bars.
Today, years of history are told through its old Romanesque buildings, which give the zoo its unique character. The zoo was also probably the most scenic one I’ve been to with its many ponds, abundant greenery, and park-like settings.
As the Buenos Aires Zoo is conveniently located right in the heart of the Palermo district, surrounded by a bustling city and skyscrapers on all sides, the lush park-like settings provided a perfect escape from city life.
Aside from the beautiful lush gardens, buildings with unique architecture dotted all throughout the grounds also made this zoo a standout. Great care was put into the housing designs for each animal, such as the Indian temple ruins for the elephant, the Chinese pagoda for the red pandas, and the castle complex for the lions.
The zoo was so picturesque that sometimes it was easy to forget if we were in a zoo or at a park, if it weren’t for the roar of the lion or the squawk of the large geese. And then we would turn a corner and come across animals such as these….
One thing I enjoyed about this zoo was the fact that the viewing areas were very close to the animal enclosures, so we didn’t have to strain to find where the animals were hiding. But then again, the bad thing about that is lack of privacy for the animals and less of a natural habitat environment. But I thought most of the enclosures seemed adequate enough (because of course nothing can come close to the great wild outdoors). Each one had an outside area and a house for feeding/resting.
Of course, the most unique aspect of this zoo (and why I visited) is the fact that you can feed certain animals. Buckets of food (specially curated by zoo veterinarians) are available for purchase for AR$40 (or $4.96). The zoo benefits from this by having the feed costs subsidized, while the visitors get an unforgettable experience by interacting with the animals. It’s a brilliant concept, and everybody wins!
The bucket of food will indicate which animals are OK to feed, but if you’re still unsure, there are signs around the enclosures as well. It really made me mad to see people feeding animals whose enclosure clearly had a sign that read “Do not feed”. For the feed-able animals, some enclosures will have a slot that you can feed from (for the gentle grazers), and some will have a chute that you can slide food down on. A bucket contains just the right amount of food for an entire lap around the zoo!
The Final Verdict
The Buenos Aires Zoo houses over 2,500 animals (89 species of mammals, 49 species of reptiles and 175 species of birds) in its 45 acres. Like most inner city zoos, I thought it was a little short on space. I did wish some of the enclosures for were a little bigger, like for the caged monkeys, giraffe, and tigers. And I thought the elephant seemed lonely. She seemed to be in a trance-like state, doing this kind of dance for hours. I couldn’t tell if she was happy, bored, or agitated. While I would like to see improvements in those areas, I really loved the beautiful landscaping and the fact that there were so many free roaming animals.
As much as it pains me to see majestic animals behind glass, I have to remember that not all zoos are bad. Zoos also educate the public and work to conserve species by breeding endangered animals. The resident white Bengal tiger pair has added a total of 9 tiger cubs to the world throughout the years, which is extremely significant to the almost extinct white tiger population (I did see the cute babies, but unfortunately, couldn’t get a picture).
There is another zoo in Buenos Aires, the very famous Lujan Zoo…. which is famous for allowing visitors to go inside the enclosures with lions and tigers. Visitor photos show happy people cuddling baby lions, petting tigers, and even riding a grown male lion. It’s highly controversial for the allegations that the animals are heavily sedated. And while I absolutely seethe with jealousy when I see pictures of people cuddling baby tigers, I do NOT support zoos like that. But sometimes, as horrible as it sounds, I really wish I didn’t have a conscience so I wouldn’t feel bad about that… Damn conscience…!
The Buenos Aires Zoo may not let you hug a lion, and it may not be the most elaborate zoo, but it is beautiful, steeped in history, and has the right goal of species conservation. It also satisfied my need for some animal interactions – guilt free! Of course, seeing any kind of naturally wild animal in captivity will make me feel a little sad (unless it’s a rehabilitation center), but overall, I left the Buenos Aires Zoo happy and light-hearted. I would say that it’s worth a visit if you have a free afternoon, especially if you’re traveling with children.
And yes, I realize I just dedicated entire two posts and some two thousand words on a zoo, so you can safely assume that I really enjoyed it!!
- Where: The Buenos Aires Zoo is located in the heart of Palermo district (metro: Green Line D – Plaza Italia exit).
- How much: AR$90 (or US$11.16), children under 12 free; AR$40 (or US$4.96) for a bucket of food.
- Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm. We went on a weekday and it was very quiet, and unfortunately some exhibits were closed. The zoo is very lively with a ton of kids on weekends, so maybe all exhibits are open then.
How do you feel about zoos? Do you have a guilt-free zoo to recommend to me?
This post is linked up at Budget Travelers Sandbox.