Havana Zoological Garden: conservation, education and recreation
Recognized by generations of Cubans as the 26-year-old zoo, for having its main access door facing that central avenue in the capital, the Havana Zoo is the oldest in the country.
It was inaugurated on the grounds of La Rosa farm on October 24, 1939, eight decades today of professional performance in the care and exhibition of an autochthonous and exotic fauna, 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 had been designed for waterfowl and other species, making good use 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 over the course of 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 facilities.
At this stage, the sculptural group La Familia, by artist Rita Longa, was placed: three deer climbing the 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, became the institutional distinctive.
The boy and the pelican, a piece sculpted by Jilma Madera, as well as The Little Sisters and the Rabbit, by the 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 display raptor and scavenger birds, excellent exponents of the artistic and scientific criteria that animated the making of the capital zoo, back in the 1940s.
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 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, when placed in a line, began to transport visitors from one end of the zoo to the other.
The primates were housed in exhibits 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 of 26 th Avenue was, is and will continue to be a space for relaxation and knowledge. Legends of charismatic animals, such as the flamboyant monkey Pancho, a chimpanzee "major league pitcher", champion in throwing his own excrement to visitors, or the elephant Mina, with that mania to surprise and wet the public with water expelled from his trunk, which she knew how to use like a fireman's hose.