Whenever I’m in Buenos Aires, I always pass by the Jardín Zoológico Eduardo Ladislao Holmberg, the historic zoo that is almost within sight of our apartment and often on my walking routes to sights, restaurants and other attractions of our Palermo neighborhood. The zoo occupies a prime property, and has some memorable architecture – for example, the Hindu motifs of the elephant house (pictured above).
The zoo has always been popular for families with children, but things have been changing in recent years. Mainly, it’s suffered considerable criticism for the conditions in which the animals were kept – not least for the death of a polar bear in the city’s suffocating summer. Thus, there have been calls to close the zoo and, when I walked by last month, small groups of picketers left visible demands for its closure, as pictured above (in previous years, I had seen even larger groups).
Then, earlier this week, city mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta announced the facility’s definitive closure, though it will reopen later this year as a vaguely defined “ecopark” that will rehabilitate animals rescued from illegal trafficking. Some native birds will be released into the riverfront wetlands of the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur (pictured above); the remaining zoo specimens will be distributed among “nature reserves” elsewhere in the country, except for those too old or infirm to be moved (they will remain on the zoo grounds, but kept from public view).
In the absence of greater detail, there remain some questions – how, for instance, can large non-native species such as elephants, hippos and rhinoceri be relocated to a suitable environment elsewhere? Also, I wonder, will they necessarily remove thriving native species such as the capybara and Patagonian mara (cavy, pictured above), the latter of which roams freely through the zoo grounds? Traditional zoos may be questionable, but I’m not sure it’s completely wrong to acquaint city children with some of the wildlife of their vast countryside.