Havana Zoo Garden: conservation, education and recreation
Recognized by generations of Cubans as the zoo of 26th avenue, for having its main access door facing that central avenue in the capital, the Havana Zoological Garden is the oldest in the country.
It was inaugurated on the grounds of the La Rosa farm on October 24, 1939, eight decades today of professional performance in the care and exhibition of autochthonous and exotic fauna, and in educational and recreational work.
As early as 1942, in that rudimentary zoo, various specimens acquired as donations were exhibited. It had rustic cages and it had been designed for waterfowl and other species, taking very good advantage of the stockpile of plants in the nursery and the topographic characteristics of the place, a system of artificial ponds.
Unfortunately, part of those facilities were badly damaged during the years, and specially from the cyclone that hit the west of the island in 1944. It reopened in 1947, including large lakes and exhibits of cats and bears, among other animals.
At this stage the sculptural group La Familia, by artist Rita Longa, consisted of three deer climbing a rock, that since then has invited us to cross the wide entrance gate; like a ship's prow, it symbolizes Noah's Ark and is, in addition to being allegorical, the institutional distinctive.
The boy and the pelican, a piece sculpted by Jilma Madera, as well as The Little Sisters and the Rabbit, by artist Sergio López Mesa, a sculpture attached to a beautiful marble fountain were, together with the monumental enclosure for big cats, or the aviary giant to exhibit raptors and scavengers, were excellent exponents of the artistic and scientific criteria that animated the capital zoo, back in the 40s.
At the beginning of the 1960s, a major remodeling of the Zoological Garden was completed, not only in its recreational areas, but also in the spaces intended for the exhibition of animals, their welfare and veterinary care.
A new playground, picnic areas and cafeterias were designed with modern criteria and respecting the environment. A railway track was built through which a miniature train was made to travel, which, placed in line, began to move visitors from one end of the zoo to the other.
The primates were housed in exhibitors with shelters for rest, and the large herbivores were accommodated in comfortable and warm enclosures, surrounded by stone-lined moats for added security. The modern veterinary care facility from then on had clinical, dietary and microbiology laboratories.
Today, the dean Zoological Garden of Havana, on some 24 hectares, is a member of several international associations and has achieved scientific prestige in research related to the conservation and reproduction of endemic and exotic species.
For the enjoyment of all, the Zoo at 26th avenue was, is and will continue to be a space for relaxation and knowledge; and also legends of charismatic animals, such as the flamboyant monkey Pancho, a chimpanzee "major league pitcher", champion in throwing his own excrement to unaware visitors, or the elephant Mina, with that mania of surprising and wetting the public with water expelled from her trunk, which she knows how to use as if it were a fireman's hose.