Tropical Manaus Zoo


of an Exhibition

by Mary Marcussen

Published on January 17, 2008, Modified on February 03, 2011

  • Description:

    Open since 1976, the Tropical Manaus Zoo consists of approximately 100 native species of Amazonian fauna, housed in more than 20,000 square meters of the grounds of the Hotel Tropical in Manuas, Amazonas, Brazil. The property is strategically located on the shores of the Rio Negro, the Amazon River’’s largest tributary. It was built intentionally in that area, just 16 km from downtown Manaus, but in the heart of the largest ecological reservation in the world: —the Amazon rainforest.

    The original menagerie of the Tropical Manaus Zoo was composed of donations made by fellow citizens in the city of Manaus or by IBAMA (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis), the chief Brazilian environmental agency, where the Zoo is duly registered and also authorized to develop captive breeding programs and maintain captive born individuals of endangered native species. Among the endangered species are the jaguar (Panthera onca), several Macaco spider monkeys, and the small cat jaguatirica (Leopardus pardalis). The breeding in captivity of this last species has been a success and in 2004 the Tropical Manaus Zoo was ranked as the fourth Brazilian endangered jaguatirica breeding spot.

    I visited this unique place while on a recent expedition to the Amazon with my family. From the Hotel Tropical lobby, we followed a small, unassuming sign to the “Zoologico” which led us directly outside and immediately into the gardens. The Zoo is free to the public and easily accessible; there is no formal gated entrance. The animal exhibits are built of native hardwood and nestled among original rainforest trees, vines, and flowering plants – a beautiful botanical garden in and of itself. Each exhibit has a single sign with just one or two sentences in Portuguese/English that briefly describes each species’’ natural history, along with a range map. Directly in the center of the Zoo grounds is a small multipurpose building that serves as a food preparation area and the veterinarian’’s office. There is no education center, no cafeteria, and no gift shop. Without a way-finding map, we had no idea of the size of the grounds, where the various animals were located, or how to budget our time. So we simply relaxed and wandered.

    Amazingly, in spite of the sheer simplicity of the exhibitry, and the lack of any substantial signage, hands-on activities, or human facilitators, the Zoo was successful in conveying to us the uniqueness of Amazonian fauna and the importance of its conservation. The novel setting allowed us to experience the essence of the Zoo – — to gaze in wonder at the animals, converse quietly among ourselves, and to contemplate their future. Perhaps “simple” is an effective strategy.

    Ten days later, after our expedition up the Rio Negro, we voted unanimously to revisit the Tropical Manaus Zoo on our way to the airport. We couldn’’t really put our finger on why the Zoo affected us the way it did, but we couldn’’t wait to go back. What struck me most about this special place was a heartfelt message on the Zoo’’s welcome sign, which I didn’’t even notice until my second visit. It was written by members of the Zoo staff to convey their dedication and commitment to their profession and to the animals they seek to protect. Here is that message, translated from Portuguese:

    “"The personnel staff, highly prepared, of our Zoo counts with biologists, veterinarians, and breeders, are all properly trained and licensed to take care of animals in rehabilitation. All of our professionals love the environment and our fauna. When visiting us, make evaluation, and encourage other people to know this work, which we do with love to nature and the environment.”"

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