Text and photos by Camille Ayral.
Some 2,500 animals, housed in 18 hectares of inner-city land between traffic and tower blocks. That is the Buenos Aires Zoo, opened in Palermo more than a century ago and now about to be closed down by the city government.
The zoo has been under pressure for some time, and a few months ago, when I heard rumours about it potentially having to shut down, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.
I did not just give a passing look at the animals: I spent time examining their enclosures, and watching their behaviour. I saw in those animals what looked like signs of stereotypy, a behaviour disorder sometimes observed in mental health hospitals or in prison in which the subject (human or animals) persistently repeats an action.
I spent four hours recovering the entire zoo, taking pictures of everything I saw: here is the result.
Most of the animals currently at the Buenos Aires zoo will be transferred to nature reserves (Photo: Camille Ayral)
The city government says the animals should be returned to their natural habitat.
Sandra, the orangutan who was granted the status of a ‘non-human’ person by a local court last year, cannot be moved but will no longer be displayed for the public.
The zoo has been criticised in recent years, including by its own staff, for not taking proper care of facilities.
“Animals need to be living in their habitat, not amongst buildings,” said Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta.
Some of the animals were showing signs of stereotypic behavior.
This hippo – typically a nocturnal animal – was out in a hot afternoon, temporarily without access to the lake in its enclosure.
Zoos across Argentina have come under pressure from animal right’s activists in recent years.
The zoo had been running a loss for its private concessionaires.
Many of the zoo’s buildings, like this replica of a Mumbai temple in the elephant enclosure, are listed as National Monuments.
The zoo will eventually be replaced with an ecological park, said the city government.