A Visit To Chile’s National Zoo in Santiago. Lions, Tigers, Bears, Oh My!

If you wish to see wild and exotic animals, the Chilean National Zoo should be your next stop! In January 2010, the Chilean National Zoo introduced five rare white tiger cubs.
The genes responsible for their white colour represent only 0.001% of the tiger population; which makes them very rare. The Chilean National Zoo, aka the Santiago Metropolitan Park, is located in the neighborhood of Bellavista, which lies at the foot of San Cristobal hill. You can admire more than 150 different species at the zoo. Along with the white tigers, the zoo is at an outstanding location and houses several species from all over the world.
However, you may ask ourselves the following question: Does the Chilean National Zoo have a good public image?
In order for us to answer this question, we will treat the topic through three different parts: a flash back on the national zoo’s history; a guided visit of the zoo; and feedback given by visitors and press over the last few years.

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Fresia the emblematic elephant!

First of all, it is important for you to know that this zoo has a very long history; which began over 90 years ago! This zoo opened its gates on the 12th of December, 1925,  but in 1907 Chile welcomed its first national zoo – located in Concepcion. However, this zoo in Concepcion was located too far from the capital and therefore it was less accessible for visitors. So, in 1921, began a campaign that introduced the National Zoological Garden construction program. In November 1925, the program was formally accepted by the former President of Chile, along with the agreement of the financing terms and the construction of the zoo on San Cristobal Hill. In December 1925, the zoo opened its gates to the public (fun fact: the zoo’s installations were built in less than 2 months!). The national zoo’s first director was Carlos Reed. The national zoo quickly became one of the favorite pastimes of Santiago’s citizens and one of the best cultural activities in Chile.

The species that were kept at the former zoo (in Concepcion) were then transferred to the national zoo, in addition to 70 other animals of which included: camels, boas, macaws, a sheep, and a baboon. In 1940, there was a new arrival that boosted the zoo’s recognition: Fresia The Elephant. Imported from Rio de Janeiro, the elephant was in the spotlight and at the center of attention, until her death in 1991. Since 2010, the number of species at the zoo has steadily increased each year.  Today, there are over 1,000 animals and more than 150 species in the zoo. The evolution of the zoo also includes the growing number of the staff: more than 50 employees are dedicated to the zoo’s welfare (caretakers; guides; veterinarians…). Throughout its long history, the Chilean National Zoo has proven that it is definitely worth a visit!

If you’re looking too see some of Chile native species up close and personal in their own habitat, check out this incredible condor observation experience here!

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Cute but ferocious…

Now that we have been through the National Zoo’s history, let’s focus on its various animals. In order to access the entry of the zoo, you have to climb the San Cristobal Hill. Before that, if you wish to get a free souvenir from your visit, a beautiful llama is waiting for you (hint: take a selfie with him!).

Also, while climbing the hill, do not forget to admire the beautiful views and landscapes surrounding you. Finally, you arrive at the entry of the zoo where you purchase a ticket (the price per ticket is around 3.000 CLP). The first animals you see in front of the entry are two nice elephants from Africa. Then the rest of the visit is uphill (yes, climbing again). There are several detailed maps in the zoo that set a global perspective of what animals you wish to see and where they are located: it is a very big zoo with a lot to see!

Take your time and appreciate a nice walk around the zoo grounds. In front of each animal enclosure, there is a small description written about the animal so you can learn more about their history. This zoo is all about various wildlife: lions; white tigers; llamas; condors, zebras, giraffes, lemurs, a hippopotamus, polar bears, Chilean flamingos, the Pudu, a jaguar, a camel, meerkats, baboons; Darwin’s frog… And so much more!

With such impressive species, there is no time to get bored. Here is an interesting fact about the national zoo’s species: 24% of the mammals and 37% of the birds held at the zoo are native to Chile. If I could describe this zoo and its species with only two adjectives, it would be: unpredictable & amazing!

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The Zoo View

So, how is the image of the zoo to the people of Chile and its visitors? Given all the data we have, the answer can only be treated objectively with comments from press and visitors over the last few decades. Sure, we know that the National Zoo is renowned all over South America, and that it is a worthy experience – but what kind of reactions have there been from public opinion? Fortunately, times have changed for the National Zoo’s reputation. In 1996, the zoo was subject of criticism in the New York Times in which it was stated that the animals were living in “deplorable conditions” (rumoured mistreatment). At that time, comments given by veterinarians and animal rights advocates, had a negative impact on the zoo’s reputation and were degrading towards its image. It is known that lions and also a white tiger had to be shot after escaping several times from their enclosures and nearly killing staff employees.

However, the rumored mistreatment of animals following these events didn’t stop the number of visitors from growing, in TripAdvisor out of the 1300 reviews, 37% rated the zoo as very good.

If you are traveling in Latin American and want to learn more about Chile’s zoos download the TheBesty app to book the best tours and activities, discover fun things to do, and find the guaranteed lowest prices on hotel bookings – all in Latin America.

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