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Barcelona! Barcelona! We have just returned from our second trip with Ryanair and thought we'd share our experience of the Zoo. Located in Citadel Park it was part of the route of the Barcelona Tourbus. The brilliant thing about the tour bus was that they were very frequent (every 5-10minutes) and you were given the opportunity to jump off and explore. As we approached we could see the amazing Arc De Triomf - a visually stunning piece of architecture, which leads to the Parc de la Ciutadella. Home to more than 2,000 animals and 300 different species the zoo was recommended as a place to see. The opening times vary according to the time of year - January - March 10-5, March - May 10-6, June - September 10-7, October 10-6, October 25th - December 10-5 and Christmas Day 10-12. The toilet facilities were clean, and the hygiene standards were clearly high. There were ample places to eat around the zoo, but only for those with strong stomachs - i'm afraid that we didn't try out the cuisine here as the smell from the animal enclosures was simply overpowering! There are several picnic areas around the zoo and plenty of bins to discard any litter. Drinks machines were doted about all over the place, which was convenient. In terms of a zoo, I must admit that the only difference was that there used to be the spectacular Snowflake to see. Beyond that, the animals were very similar to ones I've seen previously. The enclosures were more open plan and gave the impression that you could potentially be eaten alive by, say, the tigers. We got a 20% discount from the vouchers we received from the Barcelona tourbus. This made the trip to the zoo excellent value for money, at 16 euros each (meaning we got roughly 3 euros off each). I will talk briefly about some of the animals that stuck in my mind. Black Panther There were two of these amazingly sleek looking animals in an enclosure. One of the panther's was pacing up and down the boundary of its surroundings and had the distinct marking of a recent operation - we could see where the panther had been shaved along its abdomen and paw. The pacing behaviour was very disturbing to watch as it was evident that the panther was in distress. Jaguar We managed to catch a glimpse of this spectacular animal ripping a small plant apart, in an effort to eat and cleanse his digestive system - at least i think that's what it was doing from the various nature programmes I've watched. Bengal Tiger One of the most beautiful animals on the planet, two of these powerful hunters in quite an expansive area. They were separated from us by a steep vertical drop and then water, but it looked as though they could simply leap over to us. Lion The pride were fairly chilled out and appeared to just be lazing about, or so we thought. As we were about to walk past these predators they, one by one stepped down towards a gate, where one of the pride were, it seemed, ushered in. The others patiently waited for the return of their member, then one by one, walked back to the initial spot where they'd been chilling. On first impressions it looked as though these beasts would have easy access to us as we couldn't see the expansive drop between their enclosure and us. Water also separated us from these awesome animals. Mandrill The most amusing antics were carried out by the youngster of this little family. Initially the smallest of the mandrills was just messing about, bumping into a slightly bigger sibling, when suddenly, what appeared to be the patriarch of the family came flying over to stop the impending duel. The two youngsters legged it into the forestry area of their surroundings and hid from the elder. The bright red and blue facial markings marked this one out to be the elder male. Their bright hued rumps made me feel sorry for them and want to offer some very handy sudocrem, but, again, this did not transpire into action! Gorilla There were pictures of Copito de Nieve (Snowflake), the albino gorilla who sadly passed away in 2003. He was, by all accounts an extremely popular resident of the zoo and became the reason the majority of people visited the zoo. Snowflake was the only albino gorilla that's known to man and was found clinging to his mother who had been shot. Benito Mañé actually located Snowflake and sold him to Dr Jordi Sabater (who worked for Barcelona Zoo) for 10,500 pesetas. Since being sold, he spent most of his life at Barcelona Zoo and became an unofficial mascot for the amazing city. During his time there he sowed his seeds through three females and produced twenty-two offspring, of whom only six made it to adulthood. It is worth mentioning that none of his offspring were albino. In 2001, at an age of between 38-40, Snowflake was diagnosed with a rare type of skin cancer, known to be related to his albino condition. It was made public knowledge and people came and paid their respects. He was euthanized in November 2003. Basement Jaxx's album cover Rooty pays tribute to this amazing animal with an image of Snowflake on its cover. You can view some video footage of Snowflake at http://www.zoobarcelona.com/zoo_barcelona/english/Floquet_select/video.htm It became apparent that we'd arrived at the gorrilla's snack time as they were munching on what appeared to be sticks of rhubarb. One was seated in a meditational pose and had a serene aura about it. I wish Dooyoo would allow pictures to be added, as words just don't seem to capture what we saw! There were signs prohibiting the use of a camera with a flash as it could distress the gorillas. In terms of conservation there is an initiative, SOS gorilla being run by the zoo. In particular, this is targeted at the mountain gorilla which is more endangered than other species. Vulture Typically preying on dead animals, this was a bird I was happy to see caged in. There were six within the same enclosure and they were all perched above their wood homes. There was little movement from them, but seeing the sheer size made me put into perspective when I see a documentary and they swoop down and casually pick up their dinner. Brown Bear With its distinctive shoulder hump, the brown bear is clearly a force to be reckoned with. Up close and personal, you realise the sheer size of these super strong animals. One seemed to have one leg trapped in a tyre and didn't make any effort to move. The other was more active and kept tracing the outline of its surroundings. There was a makeshift waterfall in one corner and this bear sauntered over to the water, but then seemed to think twice about making contact. Hippopotamus Weighing in at approximately 1800kg this shiny skinned 'river horse' went in and out of the water that was in its enclosure. There were three in total that had their own enclosures - maybe they'd fallen out. Giraffe With a tongue that can measure 18 inches long, we got a glimpse of this long necked animal eating leaves from a tree. This bluey black tongue simply left me stuck for words as it managed to delicately strip some leaves from the tree. Camel Hilarious moment - as we approached the camels got themselves into positions, as if posing for pictures! It was truly an amazing sight and we were lucky enough to capture this rare moment on film. Indian Elephant There were two elephants, one which was heard at a distance thrashing about. As we got closer it appeared to be thrashing his head around aimlessly, which was disturbing to watch. The other elephant was just standing and occasionally blowing sand over his body - although it wasn't very warm (18°C), the elephant was probably more susceptible to the rays of the sun. Kangaroo In total there were 4 kangaroos, 1 of whom appeared to be trapped in its shed like enclosure with pigeons - which was a bizarre sight! The pigeons appeared to be flocking inside and the joey looked as though it was being intimidated by these vermin. The exit was through the shop selling all kinds of zoo related merchandise - pester power for kids to pester their parents. A very cleverly placed bit of marketing. There was also an aquarium, which we didn't have enough time to view. There is also an educational programme run by the zoo which allows kids to go to zoological workshops where they are educated by people with expert knowledge on the animals. You can become a member of the Zoo Club which allows you to use the zoo as many times as you like. You also receive a free magazine (which i'm sure you pay for within the membership, but the word 'free' is enticing ;-). Children aged 6-10 can engage in the Saturday morning activities and games. 50% can also be saved on zoo exhibitions and other discounts are offered in stores that are recommended by the zoo. 70 euros will get you and your family access to the zoo all year round. 33 euros for individuals. Although we did pay to visit the zoo, having left we did discuss whether confining animals in zoo's was a good idea. Especially after seeing the elephant constantly thrashing his head about and the pacing panther, we began to question whether it is morally right to take these animals from their vast lands into artificial, confined enclosures. I'd appreciate people's comments on their thoughts. Although alot more expensive, we have decided the next time we see animals such as these, will be in their natural habitat.
Whilst in Barcelona earlier this year we were looking for somewhere to visit that hadn't been on my tourist's agenda on my previous visits. Having spent a morning at the aquarium in the port are we headed for the Zoo. Located in the middle of the City it is well signposted in every direction and features as one of the main stops on all of the sightseeing tour buses routes. There are a couple of car parks located near to all of the entrances and again this is all well signposted from the city's main access routes. Over the last couple of years we've visited a few Zoos and Aquariums and it would be fair to say that Barcelona is one of the biggest Zoos. Like many Zoos these days they are signed up to the World Zoo conservation strategy and are committed to breeding programs for endangered species. Having opened for the first time in 1892 it has expanded to its current size from a private collection. Since those early days the Zoo has evolved and grown to become a rather large centre piece in the middle of the city. Open 365 days a year, they are even open till lunch time on Christmas day, which would be a slightly different way to spend Christmas morning. As far as the prices we actually found it quite reasonable in comparison to the nearby Aquarium. In fact entrance for an adult is actually cheaper than the Aquarium at Euro16 for an adult and Euro9.60 for a child. There are a number of concessions available for larger groups and old age pensioners. In comparison to the prices of other attractions in the City it's actually quite reasonable and I have to say very much worth the money. There are two main entrance and exits to the Zoo one comes through the Parc De La Ciutadella and the other from Carrer Wellington, each of them starting you in a different area of the Zoo. The Zoo itself is laid out in a pretty standard way with each different type of animal located close to other animals of a similar type. For example all of the Monkeys are located in one area and the cats in another. It's a pretty standard Zoo layout but it's a method that works and makes navigation relatively easy. Of course upon arrival you are given a copy of the Zoo plan that shows you exactly where all of the exhibits are located and this is in Spanish, French and English. It makes navigating the park even easier and also acts as a guide to the sheer size of the park with 67 different species on display throughout the park. Through the park there are also signposts guiding you around and I think we've found this to be the easiest attraction of this type we've been to. Located in various locations around the Zoo are a number of Cafe's and snack bars that are all very reasonable. We ate lunch at one of these cafe's and it cost us no less than the equivalent sandwich and drink would have cost in one of the takeaways or Cafe's in the streets nearby. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Barcelona Zoo for me was the habitats the animals were kept in. They are by no means small and the animals have plenty of room to roam around and feel comfortable. Obviously it's nowhere near the size they would have in their natural habitat but they aren't crammed into small pens and there aren't huge numbers making it uncomfortable. The Zoo seem to take their responsibility very seriously and with their breeding programs are not only keeping animals within the Zoo but also trying to reintroduce some of the species to their natural environment. As the Zoo is a fairly big attraction within Barcelona it took us almost 5 hours to look around everything and even then we felt like we could have stayed much longer. There were a few species I'd never seen in a Zoo before such as the Dolphins who had a huge tank and an area where you could watch a show on 4 occasions throughout the day. There were also a couple of Wolves which I'd never seen as close as that before and throughout the Zoo there are impressive habits for all of the animals within the Zoo. Overall Barcelona Zoo is incredible value for money. There are a lot of endangered species within the Zoo and it offers a great change for Adults and Children alike to see a variety of animals they would otherwise have no chance to see. The entrance price is reasonable and unusually so is the food and drink within the Zoos grounds. It isn't an attraction I would have really considered near the top of my list to visit in Barcelona but I am certainly glad that we went.