by Jose Kevo
March 23, 2005
Santo Domingo's zoo is more tranquil and tame than anything you'll find on city streets! A rather strenuous course thoroughly covers the large park passing through expansive, open-air enclosures where wildlife viewing is up-close and natural. Even more surprising than cleanliness within the garden setting was that animals appeared healthier, and perhaps better-fed, than potential local patrons.
Eventually catching up with the lady and her brood, ice was broken when explaining that a rinocernote/rhinoceros wasn't for the dinner table. Wisdom seemed to fascinate more than fluency while sharing commentaries over the next few displays.
Distant roars weren't from any large cats but hordes of schoolchildren pouring in for holiday field trips. Otherwise, there would have been less than 20 visitors on this Wednesday morning.Ostriches were sassily prancing around while macho chimps mimicked papichulos stoked on Mama Juana. Between their uncued performances and the rowdy kids, one couldn't help but speculate theories of learned behaviors.
Snack kiosks and restrooms are scattered about; welcomed pit stops on what turned out to be quite the excursion. A tram, covered with admission, regularly circles the grounds - today, it was filled with wee ones, while groups of capricious teenagers roamed freely. Sitting along shaded passages, curious kids were quick to engage with "¡Americano!" followed by basic silliness in broken English. "Soy un gringo sin una jaula" (I'm a gringo without a cage) amused them and aroused their curiosity while they viewed the surprise travelling exhibit.
Halfway through the pursuit, the road divides again. Turning left leads back to the entry, skipping the entire second half. Continuing ahead up the large hill, playgrounds and picnic areas were teeming with energy. At the top is a cafeteria, though eating anything that's been sitting around at the sparsely frequented facility should be considered. Rather, enjoy views across the valley towards the country's central mountain chains which fade-off into the distance.
Before the route starts descending, there's a pair of left-turns that shouldn't be missed though appearing to lead off into nowhere. Clusters of smaller displays await, including a children's petting zoo unlike any I'd ever seen, with birds, monkeys, and reptiles, in addition to barnyard favorites. Shortened fences allowed petting from the walkway or swarming past, like the unsupervised youngsters.
At the bottom of the hill is a placid lake enclosed in jungle environments. Ducks skimming across the marine-colored waters provided movement within scenes that otherwise could double as paintings from Eden's gardens. A service path to the right allows different vantage points, as well as reminding glimpses of destitution beyond the borders. The botanical gardens are a short distance away, but when the zoo provides an unexpected two-for-one special, why bother?
From journal Legacy Lullabies: Rocking the New World's Cradle