Jardin Zoologico de Buenos Aires

Environmentalists, lawyers and politicians are all fighting over the future of the Buenos Aires Zoo.

The Buenos Aires Zoo is arguably one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in the city. Over 44 acres, 16 city blocks and 2 million square feet of prime Palermo property where residential units across the street fetch over $300 per square foot.

The BA Zoo, which originally opened in 1875, is said to be modeled after the Bronx Zoo where animals live in semi-captivity and have some freedom to roam the grounds. The challenge in Buenos Aires is that the Palermo property is one-sixth the size of the Zoologico Neoyorquino. (264 acres).

In an effort to keep zoo residents comfortable and return other guests to the wild, zoo officials have embraced a Less is More philosophy in recent years trimming the number of mammal species by 23% and bird species by 55% from 1990 to 2008. “Still not enough” say some animal activists and environmental groups who now want to see the Zoo converted into an ecological reserve devoid of animals.

Complicating matters and clouding the future of the Buenos Aires Zoo is the fact that the management contract expired in January 2011. The City of Buenos Aires, the Zoo’s owner, would like to move forward with an auction of the zoo’s concession to the highest bidder, but that effort has been bogged down by opposing political parties. The courts have intervened and the auction has been suspended for now.

While the legal and political wrangling continues, EFE says the zoo continues to slowly evolve with a new aviary opening next week for birds recovered from animal trafficking. (Full Story in Spanish)

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