The Santa Cruz Zoo is small as compared to many in the U.S., but you’ll be able to see some very exotic and even endangered tropical animal, reptile and bird species here.
Located on the “3rd Ring” just 5 blocks West of Avenida Banzer (any taxi will take you there if you just ask for the “zoológico”) it houses many tropical bird and reptile species including the blue paraba, scarlet macaw, and other exotic birds as well as tropical frogs, fish and snakes (like the feared anaconda). In addition, you’ll see jaguars (most of them rescued from people who thought it would be “fun” to own a jaguar cub) lots of entertaining monkeys, capybaras (the world’s largest rodent), deer, llamas, wild boars, tapirs, turtles, and even the rare “oso de anteojos” (known to all kids who ever watched Dora or Diego as the “spectacled bear”), which is the only species of bear found in South America.
It also contains a fun park for kids including a merry-go-round, slides, jumphouses and swings, as well as several snack shelters and a souvenir shop. There are plenty of trashcans all around (please use them) and several sellers who will sell you a type of “pellet” which is a specially formulated food you can throw to the monkeys and birds. Please don’t feed the animals anything other than that. They are all on special diets. Most have been rescued or are endangered species – wouldn’t you feel awful if your popcorn or potato chips caused the demise of one of the last rare spectacled bears?
As you enter you must approach the ticket booth (known as the “boletería”). Children under 5 enter free, children to 10 years old pay Bs.5 and above 10 years old you pay Bs.10. You can purchase snacks, candy, ice cream, soda or bottled water from any one of the sellers who line up outside the entrance, but there are also snack shelters inside that offer the same. Again, please use the trashcans.
If you are sensitive to animals being caged, you might want to forego a visit. Unlike American zoos where animals have ample space and everything is done to imitate their natural surroundings, the animals are usually housed in small fenced cages with very little space or ambiance. Everything is being done to make the animals as comfortable as possible, given the few resources the city has for this, so kudos for the efforts made and double kudos for the volunteers who give of their time, and the donors who help support this zoo/rescue shelter. It’s a bit sad, but your visit will also benefit the animals and help with their care and it has improved a lot since it's initial establishment.
It's shady and a nice place to take the kids for a stroll and their (maybe) once-in-a-lifetime look at some very rare and nearly extinct species. It's a good lesson for kids about caring for the environment and animal habitats. If you’re staying at a hotel, it's a nice place to take the kids for some exercise. Sundays the Zoo is packed and noisy! Families bring lunch and spend the day. It’s best to visit weekdays or Saturdays.