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.
We had been advised not to visit this park, as it was supposed to be uninteresting with only a few animals, but we decided to have a look anyway. This turned out to be one of our best decisions in the entire trip. We easily found the park just a few minutes drive from Quinta S. Inácio. Beside the car park a modern entrance building made a professional impression.
Though it was not the summer season the park was open to the public until eight o'clock in the evening. As it was only half past five we went in and paid the €4.00 entrance fee. Very soon it became obvious that this was quite a good zoo. First we found an exhibit with a pool for European otters, followed by a large hall with flamingos and other marshland birds behind glass. The next exhibits were aviaries for egrets and gannets (Sula bassana)!
The principle of animal display at this place – probably the best zoo in Portugal – is to give a hidden view from behind wooden walls. The visitor looks into the aviaries or exhibits through small holes in the walls, as is common in 'hides' for watching wild birds. Again, this park is located on the grounds of a former farm. The area is quite large (35 ha) and to do the whole tour takes more than two hours. The idea is to exhibit Portuguese wildlife, which is done on a big scale – they had more than 100 native species on display when we visited the park in April 2007. Aviaries for wading birds are followed by those for birds of prey – griffon vultures (Gyps fulvus), booted eagles (Hieraaetus pennatus) and short-toed eagles (Circaetus gallicus) – and small mammals like badgers, raccoons and polecats. A highlight was the ruin of a stone farmhouse which today has many exhibits for small mammals such as Egyptian mongoose and common genet as well as various species of owls.
A zoo farm displays rare domestic breeds from Portugal. Further on hoofstock like European ibex, European bison and roe deer were displayed, as well as wild boar and more breeds of cattle and horses.
The whole park is based in a wonderful setting of forest and farmland, with various animal exhibits all along the way. New projects like a large pool for waterfowl and a small house for educational purposes gave an impression of an ongoing development. Leaving the zoo in darkness at close to eight we had a look at the exhibition hall in the basement of the entrance building, where a large model of the park explains about the whole site. One should have a look at this when visiting the park. The large and modern entrance building also contains a shop, laboratories and some meeting rooms; it was officially inaugurated in 1998.
See also Zoological Collections in Portugal - Situation in 2007