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.
Quinta S. Inácio is located in Avintes on the outskirts of Oporto. The park is well signed and thus easy to find from the main motorway (A13). The Portuguese word quinta means 'farm' and that is where this young zoo is located - as in some other cases the site is a former farmland area.
Only opened in 2001, the park was first managed by a person who gathered the stock of animals from various - and sometimes most dubious - sources. Some time later the owner decided to do more conservation work and joined AIZA and later EAZA as well. It is quite obvious that Quinta S. Inácio has a high reputation within the Portuguese zoo scene. In general appearance the zoo is an open area with fenced exhibits, aviaries and a bird-show lawn. They have snow leopards and pygmy hippos, and probably the most spectacular insect house one will find in a European zoo. A bird area has owls, storks and birds of prey. A highlight was the great blue turaco (Corythaeola cristata), a species rarely kept in zoos. Various species of curassows were on display, which in fact was the case in many zoos in Portugal.
Other carnivores we saw were a pair of African hunting dogs, and a new exhibit for cheetahs was already waiting for its new inhabitants to arrive from Omega Parque. Later we also found a female margay of a subspecies (Leopardus wiedii pirrensis) unique in Europe.
A real highlight at this place is the primate house. Designed in a half circle shape with low outdoor cages linked to the indoor enclosures, it is quite traditional, but the animals housed in it were not at all common. We saw a group of black spider monkeys which were described on the sign as Ateles paniscus, but we doubted whether this was correct and thought they were more probably A. chamek - at least some of the animals looked like this species. These monkeys were acquired during the first years of the zoo's existence by someone who did not care too much about whether some dealer's offers were legal or not. Obviously wild-born, these spider monkeys were quite a unique sight in Europe at the time of writing. Some cages further on was a single male silvery woolly monkey (Lagothrix poeppigii), who had also arrived at this time, and his individual history is also uncertain. Unfortunately a female L. poeppigii had died. The only two other animals of this species in Europe at the time of our visit were two males at Basel and Apenheul. A group of Tonkean macaques, Uganda red-tailed monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanius schmidti) and white-fronted lemurs (Eulemur [fulvus] albifrons) was on display as well. Unfortunately a pair of red-mantled saddleback tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis lagonotus) had died some months before our visit, and we now found a pair of cotton-top tamarins in their exhibit, living together with at least one larger hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus villosus).
When turning to the exit after seeing the collection of parrots and the small tropical house, we discovered another building which turned out to be a reptile collection. Even though very spacious for the public, it shocked us by being totally dark. Many middle-sized tanks and some outdoor exhibits provided a good basis for making something reasonable out of it. The vet, whom we met by accident, explained to us that it would be the zoo's major task in the coming months to completely refurbish the tanks and improve the lighting.
This place is definitely among the top three zoos in Portugal and hopefully they will continue in the future to combine good animal housing and husbandry with some exciting species. The entrance fee was €7.50.