on September 1, 2009
The moment tourists set foot on Tenerife they get to know that Loro Parque is one, if not *the* attraction of the island, a huge poster welcomes them, all trolleys in the airport carry a small one. So that they won‘t forget the message each bin on the island (more than 10 000 all in all) has a poster, too, showing a photo or a design of one of the animals of this small zoo. It‘s situated in Puerto de la Cruz, the well-known resort in the north of the island, in Punta Brava to be precise near the Playa Jardin beach, there is a free mini train to the park leaving from Avenida de Colon near Hotel San Felipe (no stops in between). We certainly hadn‘t flown to the Canaries to see a zoo, but in the first week of our holidays from Christmas 2004 to Epiphany 2005 the weather wasn‘t very good, so when walking along the seafront or through banana plantations wasn‘t possible we decided to pay Loro Parque a visit. The German Wolfgang Friedrich Kiessling founded it in 1972, he started with three loros as a taxi driver told us (Spaniards call parrots loros), after more than 30 years he‘s built the greatest delphinarium in Europe, the greatest penguinarium of the world, owns the best hotel on Tenerife (Hotel Botánico***** in Puerto de la Cruz) and has been awarded loads of awards and honours. He‘s now planning another zoopark in the south of Tenerife with a killer whale show. The six buildings at the entrance look exotic, in fact we‘re in the largest Thai village outside Thailand. The Thai King‘s sister and later his wife visited the site in the 1990s and expressed their pleasure. Why Thai? In 1913 HRH the Prince of Siam, father of the present King, visited Tenerife and made some masterly drawings of the spectacular landscapes, since then there have been close ties between Tenerife and Thailand. Entering the park we pass a pond with Japanese koi carps whose bodies are white, yellow, orange or red with irregular dots, not one of the fish is completely white and has a perfect round red dot on its forehead looking like the Japanese flag, if it were it would be worth around 100 000 $! Before they can get to see the animals the tourists have to pass a photographer who makes them stand behind two colourful parrots; we skipped this because it looked so silly and we disliked the woman bossing the tourists around, but I must say that the developed photos exhibited at the exit are really good. The photo woman gave us a leaflet with a map of the zoo and information on the animals, it‘s advisable to read it because it can help you form an opinion on what you see. Let me explain: What do you feel if you see a gorilla sitting in an enclosed site staring into the far distance? Pity, I‘d think, but then you read that Loro Parque has given home to five bachelor gorillas which were expelled from their groups and are now waiting for their acceptance at zoos with appropriate breeding programmes and that this project was a world-wide sensation when it was introduced and has already been copied several times. Sounds good, but what does ‘expelled from their groups‘ mean? Groups living in zoos, of course, not in the wild, so the question arises why gorillas should be kept in zoos at all. I know, I know, their survival is endangered and breeding programmes in zoos help them (and other species) to survive, an insoluble dilemma. My judgement isn‘t so harsh when it comes to the chimpanzees, they were confiscated from street photographers to take souvenir photos of tourists, the leaflet tells us that they feel good in Loro Parque which is proved by the fact that a baby chimp was born here. The biographies of the tigers and the jaguars are similar, they come from circuses. The main focus of the zoo are birds, though, ‘Planet Pinguin‘ (from www.loroparque.com: the largest replica of the Antarctic ever built. In glazed facilities where the characteristics of climate, ocean and antartic light are reproduced, a rocky peninsula surrounded by a pool with 600 m3 of chilled sea water is the centre point, onto which a light rain of snow falls, depositing 12 tons of ice daily) houses 53 zoo-born Humboldt penguins, also an endangered species, as well as 150 smaller Antarctic penguins, the leaflet tells us that they live a ‘carefree life‘, every year many penguin chicks are hatched. Now something about the parrots, the loros, which have given the zoopark its name: the Loro Parque Foundation prides itself on protectimg endangered parrots, currently it supports 12 projects worldwide with 400 000 Euro each year. More than 200 different species live here, in 2002 more than 1 400 birds were bred. Strolling through the zoo we pass row after row of tiny cages with one or two parrots sitting on twigs, doing nothing or sleeping. Haven‘t I learnt that these birds are sociable animals living together in big groups in their natural habitat? The sight makes me sad and I wonder if I were a member of an endangered species if I wouldn‘t prefer becoming extinct to having to live in such a tiny cage. Why do the parrots breed so well in such deplorable circumstances? Well, birds like breeding, don‘t they? In German there‘s a verb ‘to bird‘ a vulgar expression for frequent sexual intercourse. And then the shows! So parrots are intelligent animals, good for them, but do I have to see them riding bikes, roller skating or doing calculations? Equally horrible are the dolphin and sea lion shows fascinating as it is what these animals have learnt to perform. Why do these animals which swim for hundreds of miles in the ocean have to be kept in a small basin and made to jump, salto and tango (!) to blaring music, every day, four times a day? I‘ve read somewhere that dolphins having the opportunity to perform regularly are healthier than the ones which don‘t; if that isn‘t cynicism I don‘t know what is; the healthiest dolphins are surely the ones which swim freely in the ocean, if they feel like jumping, saltoing or tangoing, they can do it there! The latest addition to Loro Parque is an aquarium with a 18.5 m long tunnel straight through the shark pool. From the leaflet: ‘Eye to eye with a shark, what an experience!‘ For whom? Has anyone asked the sharks? When I was there one of the sharks was lying (or so it seemed) on top of the tunnel only moving its tail fins and looking down at the visitors, was it thinking anything? There are other animals I haven‘t told you about, I could also describe the tropical fauna but I think I‘d better stop stop now, I‘m becoming bitter. I don‘t care if the more than 19 million visitors who‘ve been to Loro Parque up to now think differently.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009