Day 24: Tuxtla Gutiérrez Zoo
Tuxtla Gutierrez Travel Blog› entry 26 of 120 › view all entries
It is amazing what a good night's sleep can do to you. The next morning we were happy little campers again ready for adventure.
Before leaving Tuxtla Gutiérrez we wanted to visit the local zoo as well. I am not a fan of zoos (slight understatement) but according to our guidebook this one specialises in only locally endangered species, and is working on extensive breeding programmes to reintroduce some these animals into the wild again.
We took a taxi to the zoo, which lies outside of town, on top of a large hill, only to be greeted by a closed gate.
“Yep” said the guard at the gate, “closed for renovations”
At this point I was very glad to have my sister with me, because she looked very sad and innocently at the guard, and explained to him that she had come all the way from Holland especially for this zoo. The guard agreed that that was quite a bummer, and he told us to wait half an hour so that he could arrange something for us.
So we spent a nice half hour sitting in the sun, sipping some water, Robbel smoking a cigarette, reading a bit in the Lonely Planet about our next destination, and lo and behold, half an hour later we were allowed in.
By then a Mexican family had arrived as well, and the six of us were treated to a private tour.
One of the animal fosters led us around the zoo, passing the cages where she would explain us a little about the animals. Not something that made us particularly happy. Not that the animals seemed mistreated or that the cage were small, no far from it, most animals lived in large, open enclosures. But no, what made us sad was learning that 95% of the types of animals in this zoo were on the brink of extinction. And even within the zoo they cannot even prevent that. Like a local type of macaw, “these are the last two in Chiapas”, she said, “but unfortunately both are male, so we can't breed them anymore.”
There was another enclosure, which was empty. She explained: “We had a group of 10 tapirs in this enclosure, but unfortunately they all died last year because the water source here in the zoo was contaminated.”
Fortunately not all animals in the zoo are in a bad state. They had successfully bred several species, which have now been re-introduced in some nearby national parks. There were also several animals roaming freely through the park, like a large type of rodent, and several monkeys in the trees. Despite living in a zoo, these animals weren't tame, and stayed away from us as much as possible. The animal foster explained to us how some of the monkeys in the zoo were actually wild monkeys who had come to the zoo on their own and simply stayed because it was an easy way to get food.
All in all this was a very special visit. Zoos never make me particularly happy, usually mainly because of the poor state of the enclosures, especially in countries like these (though I find the most popular zoo in The Netherlands also appalling). But it is clear the people are doing very good work in this place, even though it seems like lost cause, as animals are becoming extinct faster than they can save them. This is one of the poorest regions in the country, and there simply isn't any money to maintain national parks and save the habitat of endangered animals.
They had an information centre where they teach children coming here on school trips about environmental issues, and specifically how to depose of garbage. But I doubt it helps. Once outside we saw that the parking lot and the road back to the city were as much covered in litter as anywhere else in this country.