The Conservation Center in Buenaventura, also known as ‘The Zoo’ has transformed into the largest institution focused on protecting and caring for animals. Working alongside authorities and other organizations, they rescue and create awareness about the wild fauna in the area.  

“People are unaware of the size of the area until they experience it firsthand. Generally visitors tell us ‘I had no idea that it was going to be this big or have so many things. I will visit again because I missed some parts but we are tired from the sun and came unprepared’ ”, Neibys Ponce mentions. She is second in charge at the center and one of the people that always welcomes its visitors with a smile. 

We had the same feeling when we had the opportunity to visit for the first time.The first impression is majestic. A space that is well taken care of in which diverse species from the area cohabit and it also provides clear and precise information about each animal. 

“Each of the exhibits complies with the standards set by MiAmbiente (the Ministry in charge). The square feet that each animal must have, the proper distance between perimeters and even the plants that need to be in each exhibit,” the foreman confirms. 

The zoo was created in 2007 but the idea was taking shape long before through Adriana de Vallarino’s great interest in caring for animals. Over time, the idea grew until becoming the renown Conservation Center that focuses on protecting the fauna and flora of the area. Additionally, they aim to educate the community and all surrounding areas, especially schools. 

“The species we have are here for two main reasons: relocation and care. We work in close collaboration with other institutions and people with whom we exchange information so each animal that we have can receive appropriate attention,” the main guide confirms. 

Currently the conservation center has approximately 300 animals that fall under two main categories: wild fauna and barn. The exhibition is the best reason to teach foreigners and the community about respecting and caring for an animal.  

Visitors and its educational work 

“You know that chickens are descendants of dinosaurs because there is a species…” Neibys recalls the comments the children make when arriving at the zoo. “They know more than any of us and arrive full of questions that leave us baffled,” she smiles. 

The Conservation Center has contributed to increasing conscious awareness about the environment with the students in the new school in Buenaventura – The Creating Center – that has a methodology focused on experimentation and for students to ‘experience’ their environment. However, this is not exclusive to only this school but also encompasses other surrounding schools.

“Schools in the area come to explore. For example, the children in the Buenaventura school come every two weeks for a small tour. The teachers set a program or they have to look for something specific, focus on a species and they come with an idea of what questions they have to ask. What I most enjoy is seeing how passionate they are about animals,” states Neibys. 

As she laughs, she recalls stories about the visitors and their interests such as how they want to see a chameleon change colors or Maximiliano, the yellow python or Zeus the cockatoo that is also a favorite among the species at the Zoo. 

When asked about the main concept that the visitor should leave with after touring the center she did not hesitate to answer: “Mainly I believe that they leave understanding how to take care of a species and how to take care of the environment. Children are more aware than parents about caring for an animal. They are the ones that ask me about how they can contribute, how they can help and I always reply: with love and respect.”

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