Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lima Zoo - Parque de las Leyendas

Yesterday Liz and I ventured to the Parque de las Leyendas -the "Park of Legends"- which is, in fact, the Lima zoo.

Built in 1964, the zoo was designed to showcase the fauna of Peru's three major natural regions: coast,  highlands, and jungle.  Of the three, the jungle section was, and still is, the centerpiece of the zoo.  Densly planted, it was designed to give visitors the impression of being in a jungle, and included a replica native village on an island.

Naturally, since I was a child it has been my favourite part of the zoo.

Red-bellied piranha ( Pygocentrus nattereri)
Male Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus), Peru's national bird.
White caiman (Caiman crocodylus).

Coatimundi (Nasua nasua)

Maquisapa or Pruvian spider monkey (Ateles chamek).

Taricaya turtles (Podocnemis sp.)
Saki (Pithecia sp.,)

That part of the park has been significantly revamped in recent years, and its overall appearance has improved quite a bit.  We noticed that the animal population is much reduced, indicating that the zoo is not undertaking collecting from the wild to replace animals that have passed away.  In one sense that is a good thing, and is in line with modern zoo practices (which emphasize trading among zoos instead of wild colllection), but it also means that some animals are fated to live solitary lives in their enclosures, which for animals such as monkeys, otters, and capybaras could be quite stressful.  It also means that the zoo has no chance of establishing breeding populations of those animals

 Next to the jungle section, the Sierra or highlands portion of the park is the most developed in terms of giving a sense of place.  In the 1990s they built it up to resemble an Andean village, which is a nice touch.  The old replica mine has been preserved, and a favourite attraction in this section of the park (however, we skipped it this time).

Male Andean condor (Vultur gryphus)
A shot in which all four New World camelids can be appreciated.  From L to R: guanaco (Lama guanicoe),
vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), alpaca (Vicugna pacos), llama (Lama glama), and two more vicuñas.

 Another very distinctive feature of the park is that it emcompasses a significant portion of the ruins of what was once the ceremonial and administrative center of the precolumbian city of Maranga, with archaeological sites that date back 1,000 years or more, and go on up through the Inca occupation of the valley (in fact, most of what is visible today dates from the Inca period).

Huaca Tres Palos

Huaca La Cruz
15th century Ychma/Inca vase with an octopus motif
With ample water, treetops, and food supplies, the Parque de las Leyendas is also prime bird habitat, specially in the jungle section, which is just awash in the sounds of wild birds in the trees and bushes.

The huacas, or ruins, also serve an unexpected function as some of the few remaining habitats for native species of lizards and geckos. In fact, the whole of the park serves that purpose for other small animals including several snake, toad, and frog species.  When the zoo was founded it was surrounded by agricultural lands -someof which still received water via precolumbian canals!- and fallow fields.  As the area around it was urbanized those animals found refuge in the park.  In fact there is one species of llizard that is endemic to the park and to just two or three other huacas in the city.

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