Although Jerez is principally known for wine (and for good reason), there’s plenty else to do in this pretty Andalusian city — like go to the zoo.
We visited one cold winter morning and spent a pleasant hour or two wandering from enclosure to enclosure. Its public-garden origins are quite apparent, as there are even more trees than animals — over 700 species of plants live the complex, apparently, including 200 types of tree. This means that the walkways are shady and cool, great if you’re visiting in the height of summer.
The zoo is a tourist attraction, and visitors can ride the tourist train or buy personalised souvenirs at a photo kiosk as well as see the animals. But while the entrance tickets help pay the bills, the behind-the-scenes work is much more important. The zoo’s main focus is the conservation of species, as well as investigation and education. Almost all the animals that you’ll see on your visit form part of a reproduction programme — when we were there, many of the enclosures boasted signs advertising recién nacidos (babies). Many of these animals will be released into the wild under controlled conditions.
We were particularly impressed with the story of the Dorcas gazelle of north Africa, that’s now almost completely extinct in the wild. Zoobotanico Jerez is one of a handful of animal centres that are working to keep the species alive. They’re doing well — we saw plenty of “recien nacidos”.
Time needed: 1-2 hours
Hours: 10am-6pm, until 7pm May to September.
Address: Calle Madreselva s/n, Jerez de la Frontera
More info: zoobotanicojerez.com
Other animals, like the chimpanzees and some raptors, have been rescued from abusive homes and live a much more comfortable life in the zoo.
My only complaint is the one I have with most zoos — enclosure size. Several of the animals have a severe lack of space; notably the tiger and some of the larger raptors. However, most of the other enclosures are a reasonable size, and the peacocks have free reign of the complex. Storks also come and go, attracted by the nesting platforms constructed for them.
On the whole, zoobotanico Jerez is worth a visit, especially if you’re visiting with kids. The entrance fee is a little expensive, in my opinion — but when you consider that this money is helping keep whole species of animals alive, it’s totally worth it.