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Zoos and Aquarium of Havana - a review

Discussion in 'Cuba' started by carlos55, 23 Mar 2015.

  1. carlos55

    carlos55 Well-Known Member

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    Havana is a city of over 2 million inhabitants. Some times of the year it has also many tourists. As the capital of the country of Cuba it has various important cultural institutions. Havana has 3 animal collections: Zoologico Nacional de Cuba, Zoologico de Habana and Acuario Nacional de Cuba. It is surprising that a caribbean city has so many animal collections. For example, San Juan Puerto Rico, only has a feline sanctuary.
    I visited all 3 in March, 2015.
    Zoologico Nacional de Cuba
    This large zoo was founded in 1984. It covers 340 hectacres,not all of which are opened to the public. This is the zoo that recieved most of the animals from the famous Namibia import of 2012 and 2013, which are doing quite well here by the way. The zoo has basically 2 sections, the large african savana area and the walk through section.
    To get to the zoologico nacional you must take a taxi, because the park is outside of Havana city, in the Boyeros area, past the airport. It is quite a ride, but the scenery is lovely. When you finally arrive to zoologico nacional
    Negotiate with the taxi driver so he will come back for you. Do not even think of taking local public transportation, if it passes you will get lost.
    After the entrance you will arrive at the bus station where you pass a nice mural and enter the lines for the guagua or bus. Be aware that the driver will make almost no stops and your camera must be ready. There is a guide on board, who only speaks spanish. She mentions the species but the drivers justs speed through the enormous african savana. It really does look like an african plains and the species are numerous. Many are from the great Namibia import. Here is what i saw, sometimes very briefly. Red Hartebeest, roan antelope, springbok, kudu, impala, eland, ankole cattle, reticulated giraffes, cape buffalo, many white rhinos, 1 elder african elephant and various namibian juveniles, ostrich, grants and grevy´s zebras. The red hartebeests are the only ones in any zoo out of africa and they have a juvenile. There was a large hippo pool there. There are two open feline areas, one for african lions and another for cheetahs from Namibia, which were a no show.
    Then the guagua arrives at the walk through area at which everyone gets off. There is a very large pond for cuban crocodiles, which are the largest animals in Cuba and always seemed to have nice exhibits in the Havana zoos. Besides the other side of a bridge are carribean flamingos with mallard and peking ducks.
    Next are the carnivore and primate sections, with very uneven sections. There is very large open pen for 2 black backed jackals, from Namibia, quite active. Also in separate large pens are 3 species of hyenas, spotted, brown and striped. Only the later were active. Of course, the brown and spotted hyenas are from Namibia. Another open pen for a small pack of canadian grey wolves which breed here.
    Next is the worst part of the zoo, the feline section with small heavily barred cages. It like the east berlin tierpark with a terrible predator house, but worse. Here are bengal tigers, a white lion, jaguar, puma and a very unlucky black bear. Here are also african leopards from Namibia, which despite the cages, have already bred. There were 2 lovely african leopard cubs. Actually the leopards were the only namibian animals i saw in older and ugly exhibits.
    After some adequate reptile exhibits for the cuban iguana, rhino iguana and leopard tortoise.
    The primate area is also ugly with concrete cages with heavy bars and netting. Here are white faced and brown capuchins, olive and hamadryas baboons, crab eating and rhesus macaques, vervet monkeys, mandrill and some unfortunate chimpanzees. Fortunately I saw a new primate area being constructed near the old area.
    Behind the primate area, i saw large open paddocks, one for a herd of grevy´s zebra males and the other for kulan, which must be the only herd in any latin american zoo.
    After are various ample new netted areas for caracals, bat eared foxes and crested porcupines. All from Namibia. The caracals have already bred. Also 2 small cages for raccoon and coati.
    Next is a large domestic and farm animal section. Nice pens for dromedary camel, dwarf zebu and cuban burros, which are very popular in the havana zoos. Also a nice large pen for collared peccary. There was a young water buffalo and some sheep as well. The bird collection at zoologico nacional was very dissapointing. Here were 2 breeds of domestic chicken, blue and white peafowl, collared pheasant, mandarin duck, grey goose and guinea fowl. All in pens of regular size. Maybe there is a parrot show, but i did not see one.
    And finally on the way out a large barred cage for binturongs.
    The signage at zoologico nacional is minimal and bleak, which is surprising for Cuba which does have a high educational level for latin America. I went on a sunday and saw people trying to feed animals when not watched by zoo personnel.
    Zoologico Nacional is definetly worth seeing but be prepared for uneven exhibits. As sooty mentioned it rather like an eastern european zoo from the eighties. It must be mentioned that the animals from Namibia are doing quite well and various have bred, such hartebeests, kudus, impala, leopards, caracals. I think that the Namibian animals are actually doing much better than would have been expected and i think that is good news.
    I am tired now, so the acuario nacional and havana zoo will come later.
     
    Last edited: 23 Mar 2015
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  2. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for the review and taking us inside a zoo that few of us have ever visited.
     
  3. vogelcommando

    vogelcommando Well-Known Member

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    Nice review and good to hear the shipments from Africa are doing well, thanks Carlos55 !
     
  4. MJB

    MJB Member

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    In La Habana there are 2 aquariums more:
    - Acuario, Parque Lenin, La Habana
    - Aquarium del Centro Histórico, Teniente Rey No. 9, entre Oficios y Mercaderes, Habana Vieja, La Habana
     
  5. carlos55

    carlos55 Well-Known Member

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  6. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    You must be really, really tired, since it has been over two years and you still do not have the strength to write the reviews! ;)
     
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  7. carlos55

    carlos55 Well-Known Member

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    Gracias Az i had completely forgot about that!
     
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  8. carlos55

    carlos55 Well-Known Member

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    Zoologico de la Habana is the city zoo and was founded in 1943. It is on 23 hectáreas. It is the oldest zoo in Cuba and very popular. The zoo was recently renovated but many enclousures are outdated by US standards. Yet the zoo does what it can with scarce resources. Staff and keepers were very nice to me. No english ok. The zoo has lovely carribean tropical vegetation. It is in the Vedado sección of Habana and very accesible by bus or taxi.
    After entering there is along lake with two large islands one for Brown spider monkeys and another for chimpanzees. Both breed very well here. These are the best primate enclousures. Other primates are in small cages. There are vervets,crab eating and bear macaques, red eared guenons and capuchin monkeys. Lions from Namibia have a large moated área. Pumas and jaguar have large cages which are adequate. A black bear lives in a concrete pit. A paír of ratel from Namibia have a nice moated exhibit and were quite active. Coyotes and striped hyenas are in adequates pens. Raccoons have are on open air exhibit but other small mammals are in cages. They are binturongs,red tailed squirrels, Jutia conga,agutis and coatis.
     
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  9. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    I am not sure what the sentence "No english ok" means.

    Also (going back to your first post) I am curious if you know which cats are resident at the feline center in Puerto Rico.
     
  10. carlos55

    carlos55 Well-Known Member

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    NeXT there is a large lake for waterfowl one section is separate for carribean flamingos. There is a very large and nice área for cuban crocodiles of various sizes that breed here and are from the Zapata mangroves. Also here are cuban boas and cuban iguanas and a sulcata tortoise in di versé pens. Most of the aviares were closed for renovation. I did see a bird of prey section in large aviaries. African vultures from Namibia, red tailed hawk, carac ara and Virginia owl. A very nice large aviary for andean cóndors. Also pens for ostrich and a cassowary.
    There are large moated pens with pools for asían Water buffalo,1 nile hippo and 1 white rhino. Adequate pens for hoofstock hold grant zebras,elands,fallow and white tail deer, nilgai, blackbuck! collared pecarry, dwarf zebu,ankole cattle and cuban burros,
    The zoo is very popular and is very crowded on sundays, but quite nice on weekdays
     
    Last edited: 14 Aug 2017
  11. carlos55

    carlos55 Well-Known Member

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    Outside of the hotels and the university the cuban people in general do not speak english even in Habana.Speaking in spanish is much appreciated. it maybe nationalism.
    I do not know about the Feline rescue center in Puerto Rico other than what is on the internet.
     
    Last edited: 14 Aug 2017
  12. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Thanks for clarification. The "ok" was confusing. Although I will likely never visit Cuba, I am fluent enough in Spanish to get by on my own in a Spanish speaking country.
     
  13. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    The place in Puerto Rico is Save-A-Gato and is only domestic cats. I know there used to be a zoo however because years ago Int'l Species Information System listed them as having rusty spotted cats. Did the zoo close?
     
  14. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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  15. carlos55

    carlos55 Well-Known Member

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    Puerto Rico has one zoo. Cuba has over 20 zoos and aquariums. The fact is that Fidel Castro and his second wife really liked animals and zoos. Also zoos were considered as educational elements. The quality of the cuban zoos is another matter.
     
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  16. wally war eagle

    wally war eagle Well-Known Member

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    also in Bayamon Puerto Rico is science park, museum and small zoo with few exotics.
     
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