CNR Avs Las Heras & Sarmiento
Buenos Aires, Argentina
From Lonely Planet:
“Artificial lakes, pleasant walking paths and over 350 species of animals entertain the crowds at this relatively good zoo. Most of the enclosures offer decent spaces, and some buildings are impressive in themselves – check out the elephant house. An aquarium, a monkey island, a petting zoo and a large aviary are other highlights.”
“President Domingo Sarmiento was responsible for the laying out of the Parque Tres de Febrero in land previously owned by Juan Manuel de Rosas. The project was begun in 1874; the park was opened on November 11, 1875, and included a small section dedicated for animals. This area was owned by the Federal Government until 1888 when it was transferred to the City of Buenos Aires. In that year, Mayor Antonio Crespo created the Buenos Aires Zoo, and separated it from the rest of the park.
Its first director Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg was appointed in 1888 and stayed in that position for 15 years. He was the major designer of the zoo. Holmberg completed the assignment of the different parks, lakes and avenues, and began the exhibition of the 650 animals that the zoo had at that time. In that period zoos around the world did not have the same function as they do today; their main goal was recreational, and they had less space for animals and a large recreational area for visitors.
Clemente Onelli was the director from 1904 to 1924 and promoted the Zoo Gardens. Onelli added pony, elephant and camel rides to the zoo and increased the number of visitors (from 1,500 to 15,000) during his first year of office. He is also responsible for most of the Romanesque buildings at the zoo.
Don Adolfo Holmberg, nephew of the first Director, took over as directory in 1924 and headed the zoo until 1944, after which a succession of political appointees let the zoo deteriorate. In 1991 the zoo was privatized, and the program to get the animals out from behind bars and into more naturalistic habitats began.
The grassy areas of the park are full of native birds and rodents, which come to the zoo for the food thrown to the animals by visitor. Nutria, rabbits, and peacock roam the park freely. A variety of monkeys and small mammals inhabit the zoo. Although some are in cages, others are housed on the islands in the zoo’s many ponds, or roam free. At the Farm of the Zoo (La Granja Del Zoo), visitors can pet and feed ponies, donkeys, sheep, and goats. This part of the zoo is also home to turkeys, chickens, roosters, pigs, rabbits, cows and horses. At the Aquarium, visitors can see penguins, as well as fresh water fish including piranha and sea dwellers such as striped bream, grouper, black sea bass, sea catfish, and many tropical fish. The aquarium also has a seal show, for which visitors must pay extra. The Tropical Rainforest does not house many animals. It is a two story building displaying tropical plant life, and contains an indoor waterfall. A large iguana is kept on the grounds outside the exit from this exhibit. Big cats at the zoo include white tigers, pumas, cheetahs, jaguars and lions. The lions are housed in a castle complex with its own moat. Other animals at the zoo include red pandas, camels, llamas, giraffes, bison, hippos, and elephants. Polar bears are housed in an exhibit that includes an underwater viewing area, Camels are exhibited amidst Moroccan-style architecture, the flamingoes are in a lake near the entrance near Byzantine “ruins,” and kangaroos are surrounded by aboriginal paintings. The elephant house is built to look like the ruins of an Indian temple.”
The Buenos Aires Zoo has had it share of neglect in the past with some of it still evident today. The nicest “enclosure” or “habitat” is that reserved for visitors, with the lion a distant second. Most of the animals are still behind bars…Those in habitats are lucky, though their homes leave much to be desired. The zoo is a nice way to spend the afternoon, as the grounds are pretty and entry is affordable (around 90 Pesos, or roughly $22 for two). This pass gets you in to see all of the exhibits, including the aquarium and the reptile house. At the entry and throughout the park you can buy food to feed the various animals. The ones that you can’t feed are clearly marked.