Published On: Sat, Jan 18th, 2014

You Belong In The Zoo

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Whether a resident of Merida, or simply a visitor, you should consider a visit to our local zoo: El Parque Zoológico del Centenario, located at Avenida Itzaes y Calle 59. For a small community based zoo el Centenario is a delight. It is accessible, it is clean and well kept, and the admission is free.


You belong in the zoo. Whether a resident of Merida, or simply a visitor, you should consider a visit to our local zoo: El Parque Zoologico del Centenario, located at Avenida Itzaes y Calle 59. I am lucky in that it is a very short ten-minute walk from mi casa in Colonia Santiago to the zoo, and so I visit frequently.

I am originally from San Diego, California, and am well acquainted with quality world class zoos and wild animal parks. San Diego is home to two of the finest in the world: the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park. While the zoo itself (located in Balboa Park) focuses primarily on showcasing thousands of animals for the viewing public, the wild animal
park promotes and sustains an active breeding program.

Lion (Photo: Stephen D.)

Lion (Photo: Stephen Dennstedt)

Zoos are controversial today, and often for good reason. Accused of animal exploitation, neglect and outright abuse in some instances, organizations like PETA have condemned their existence and propagation. However, I think a fair minded person might also make a substantial case for their importance. Their contributions in the areas of education, and even species
preservation, are important to the longterm survival of our animal friends from around the world.

I have the advantage of knowing firsthand the efforts that the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park put forth to save our fellow creatures: including, but not limited to, education, active captive breeding programs, diverse genetic pools of breeding material and pioneering, cutting-edge habitat and environmental design and engineering. An unhappy animal will not breed and reproduce in captivity, often dooming itself to eventual extinction.

Baboon (Photo Stephen Dennstedt)

Baboon (Photo Stephen Dennstedt)

Visiting the San Diego Wild Animal Park is like traveling through Africa, with large expanses of savannah covering thousands of acres, and housing multiple complementary species within the same enclosures.

For a small community based zoo Parque Zoologico del Centenario is a delight. It is accessible, it is clean and well kept, and it is free. Yes, I said free. As much as I tout the animal preserves in San Diego, they do cost an arm and a leg to visit, and are not readily accessible to everyone.

In Merida anyone and everyone can visit the zoo as often as they like. No matter your age you can enjoy Parque Zoologico, there is plenty of shade to protect you from the blazing sun, and enough benches to rest your weary bones. There are food and drink stands
galore, and lots of rides for the kiddies. The bathrooms are plentiful, clean and tidy, and the zoo staff are courteous and helpful.

The reasons to visit the zoo are numerous: from a simple, relaxing stroll through a lush and shaded habitat, to viewing exotic animals closeup and personal (especially the large cats), to furthering your education, to indulging your photography habit like me. There is simply something for everyone. If you have ethical concerns I might suggest that you experience the zoo yourself before placing too much judgment on it.

Photo: Stephen Dennstedt

Photo: Stephen Dennstedt

I would consider myself to be an animal rights guy, a staunch environmentalist and a compassionate and humane person in general. I am a professional wildlife and nature photographer, world traveler and humanitarian. I am most at home photographing creatures in their natural habitats, and capturing their natural behaviors on film (digital). I volunteer my time and photographic talent to Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve and Puuc Jaguar Conservation on a regular basis here in Yucatan, and I have no real criticism of Parque Zoologico.

Within obvious budget constraints the animals are well taken care of, the grounds are clean and well maintained, and the animals all appear to be very healthy. Compared to other zoos I’ve visited around the world I would give Parque Zoologico del Centenario high marks for what it is: a small, government paid for, community zoo, that is available to everyone for free.


Article/Photos: Stephen F. Dennstedt


Stephen F. Dennstedt has resided in Merida, Yucatan, for the past two years, but will be departing in  April to pursue his worldwide travels. He is a professional photographer with Indochine Photography  International (, and writes the travel blog Expat Journal (Postcards  from the Edge) which is read in over 110 countries. While in Merida he has volunteered his time and  talent with Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve and Puuc Jaguar Conservation. For a short period of time  he was also the staff photographer for The Yucatan Times.

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