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Quito Zoo
Black bear with 'spectacle' markings on face
Large macaws with yellow chests and blue wings
Jaguar at Quito Zoo
Andean condor at Quito Zoo in EcuadorOcelot (spotted cat) lounging high in a tree
Mother and baby monkey at Quito Zoo

Quito Zoo offers an
opportunity to see some of Ecuador's rare and elusive native animals up close.


Quito Zoo -  Ecuador Destinations

Quito Zoo is strangely named since it is not actually in Quito... However, it is definitely a zoo well worth a visit and it's not too far from the city.  The zoo is at Guayllabamba and is run by the nonprofit Fundación Zoológica de Ecuador.  The most recent attraction are the 2 leopard cubs born at the Zoo in late 2015.
Quito Zoo's animal collection focuses mostly on Ecuador's native fauna.  Many of these animals are rare or very shy, or both, so the zoo is a good chance to get a close-up look at creatures you are unlikely to even catch a glimpse of in the wild.  Obviously, zoo animals behave a little differently to animals in their natural habitat, but study how they move, their size, colour and shape and you will have more chance of spotting their wild cousins in their natural habitats.
At Quito Zoo you can see several endangered species including rare mammals.  Even if you spent weeks in some of Ecuador's more remote areas you would still be very lucky to see an ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), a jaguar (Panthera onca), a puma (Puma concolor) or a spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) in the wild, but you can't miss them here at the zoo.  There are also other large birds of prey and endangered birds including colourful parrots.  The lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) has bred at the Zoo.
There is a strong focus on conservation.  Ecuador's national bird, the endangered Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), has bred successfully at Quito Zoo.  Two of the condor offspring were released into the wild in late 2016 in a huge conservation success, and some of the zoo personnel play key roles in the National Condor Conservation group.  The Zoo is also involved in conservation projects to help save the endangered mountain tapir, and helped rehabilitate a baby bear cub, Bubu, who was later sucessfully returned to the wild as an adult.  Zoo personnel lend their expertise and experience to conservation projects.
Zoo exhibits change from time to time.  Currently, there is an excellent display of frogs.  Don't miss the nocturnal animals part of the zoo where you walk, with a guide, through a cage containing some beautiful owls, a porcupine and a two-toed sloth.  The walk-through aviary offers the chance to coexist with toucans, parrots and more.
Zoo welfare standards can be a worry in developing countries, but do not fear.  Quito Zoo is a member of ALPZA (Latin American association of zoos & aquariums), is represented on their managing committee and adheres to WAZA (World Association of Zoos & Aquariums) international standards.  The zoo provides reasonably spacious enclosures, most with space for hiding away from the public, and tries to replicate the relevant natural habitat.  The zoo animals look healthy and are well cared for by dedicated staff, some of whom have worked there ever since the Zoo moved to its current site in 1999.  Almost all of the animals at Quito Zoo have been rescued from traffickers or abandoned by the public and most would not be able to survive in the wild.
Quito Zoo's impact goes far beyond what you see on display.  The Zoo plays a major role in educating Ecuador's citizens about its wildlife, the need to conserve it and the importance of not trafficking wild animals.  In addition to the animals on exhibit, there are as many again in quarantine or under veterinary care after being rescued from illegal captivity, confiscated from wildlife traffickers or abandoned by irresponsible "pet owners".  The zoo works with rescue centres around Ecuador to find suitable homes for these animals and birds, or liberates the very few (mostly birds & snakes) that are suitable.  The modest entry fee has to finance all of this work, so your visit to the zoo is a great way to support conservation in Ecuador.
To get to Quito Zoo, head to Quito's La Ofelia Bus Station (get there by bus ($0.25) or taxi ($6-$8) along Avenida America and La Prensa).  Take a bus for Guayllabamba - around $1, takes less than an hour.  Ask for the "zoológico" and you will be dropped where the road splits just before Guayllabamba.  From there, take the right fork for about 150 yards and then turn right up the well signposted road to the zoo, about a half hour walk.  Alternatively, take a camioneta (pick-up) which function as taxis - they charge around $1.50 for the 5 minute trip to the zoo and are usually quick to spot tourists alighting from buses.  There is sometimes a free bus service at weekends.
Entry to the Zoo is $4 for adults.  Keep hold of your ticket for a discount on entry to the excellent Vivarium in Parque La Carolina in Quito New Town.  Quito Zoo is closed on Mondays, open until 5pm the rest of the week, with last ticket sales at 4pm.  Weekday mornings usually see enthusiastic primary school classes - the zoo works with local schools and offers some excellent educational materials.  Weekday afternoons are usually quiet at the zoo, but weekends and bank holidays get very busy and are worth avoiding if your travel schedule is flexible enough.
Information at Quito Zoo is mostly in Spanish, but there are sometimes English-speaking guides available.  There is a little cafe at the zoo which offers snacks, but is not always open, so don't rely on being able to lunch there.  There is a picnic area.  More information (in Spanish) at www.quitozoo.org.  Take sunscreen, a hat and water, as the weather in Guayllabamba is usually hotter and drier than Quito.
An excursion to Quito Zoo can easily be done in half a day from Quito, or a side trip on the way to or from Otavalo or Cayambe.  It won't take more than a couple of hours to enjoy what the zoo has to offer.  When you're finished, you can either walk back to the junction, or wait and hope that a camioneta turns up, or pay one of the ladies at the little shops by the exit to phone for a camioneta for you.  Enjoy your visit to Quito Zoo!
Useful Spanish Vocabulary for an excursion to Quito Zoo, Ecuador:
parque zoológico: zoo
oso: bear
mono: monkey
tortuga: tortoise
Ecuador Destinations: Quito Zoo
Half-day excursion from Quito to see some of the native birds and animals of Ecuador, including various endangered species cared for as part of Quito Zoo's commitment to conservation.  Zoo pictures of native fauna and more common zoo animals.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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