In April 2007 Olaf Paterok and myself took a ten-day tour to see the most important and interesting zoological collections in Portugal and to visit the new Omega Parque in the south of Portugal, which unfortunately has announced that it is to be closed very soon. During our tour we learned that we were lucky to see a number of other collections which are on the point of changing their appearance or closing. So it was the right time to do a survey and get an impression of the current situation of zoos, zoo design and wild animal husbandry in Portugal.
On getting to the entrance at Badoca Safari Park, one will be surprised by the €14.00 entrance fee. When leaving the park about two hours later one will still be surprised at a high price like that, especially after finding so few species and animals. During our visit we saw about 50 species in the whole park.
The first part of Badoca is a very small zoo with some aviaries for parrots behind which the visitor will find a restaurant and a bird of prey show. Here six species of owl and five species of birds of prey were kept for show purposes. These included such common show species as harris hawk, lanner falcon and snowy owl, but also rarities in a show like turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), northern white-faced scops owl (Ptilopsis leucotis) or southern boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae). There are also some native Portuguese species. This area is followed by a children's zoo with seven species of domestic animals from pygmy goats to llamas and Ankole-Watussi cattle.
Before reaching the station for the safari truck one finds another little show area for a Madagascar show. Behind this, a fantastic island for a group of red-bellied lemurs (Eulemur rubriventer) catches the visitor's eye. Here we saw one of the few good, functional and modern night houses for a small primate species in the whole of Portugal. It seemed to us that people had put a great deal of thought into this exhibit, and the result is the great appearance of this island with the old oak trees very much resembling the dry vegetation on Madagascar - really one of the best lemur exhibits we have ever seen. In this part we also found a group of marabou storks, a lesser flamingo colony and some yellowbilled storks and sacred ibises.
Crossing a valley via a bridge to the station we saw an exhibit for ring-tailed coatis, after which we finally came to the safari. Here we realized that the park we had already seen, Monte Selvagem, was very much the little brother of this park. There was the same idea of taking visitors through the safari on a truck trailer, and the driver even gave the same explanations - at least, that was how it sounded. On the other hand, at Badoca we found a few more species. In the safari they had ostrich, fallow and red deer, eland, red lechwe, a single male impala, brindled gnu, scimitar-horned oryx, giraffe and forest buffalo. The turning point was along a typical high-fenced exhibit for some hybrid tigers. Again the tour took quite a long time and again the interesting landscape provided a lot of old trees for many native species.
When leaving the park we talked to an employee and learned that projects for hippos, more lemur species and more carnivores were due to be realized. When we asked about elephants, the man said there were no plans for them and explained that the management thought the husbandry of elephants was too dangerous.
It is interesting to know how the park made some money in recent years. In 2004 a very successful Portuguese TV series took place at Badoca. The millions earned by this show and even more by the hundreds of thousands of people visiting the park in the following season were partly reinvested. This is made very evident by the new playgrounds and buildings and the very good condition of many fences and other wooden fittings. Maintenance seems to be an issue at Badoca. In particular, the nice playground made by a special company from Germany was quite expensive.
Badoca Safari Park is located about 150 km south of Lisbon quite close to the coast. The park was opened in 1999 and, to judge by the high entry fee and the number of people visiting every year, its future seems to be bright. We found here not only one of the best lemur exhibits but also really good animal signs, a rarity in Portugal. One can only wish the people in charge would be a bit luckier with their giraffes and stick to the good ideas on presenting primates that they had with the red-bellied lemurs.