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This review written by Christoph Schwitzer and reprinted by Kind Permission of International Zoo News [A zoo ] Also not listed in the [International Zoo ] Yearbook is the Zoo of the University of Mato Grosso in Cuiabá, a large city in western-central Brazil, situated at the northern edge of the Pantanal, the world's largest continuous area of freshwater swamp. Cuiabá, the capital of the state of Mato Grosso, was established by gold-diggers when they found what they were searching for in the Cuiabá and Coxipó rivers. In the city's centre, a big stone marks the exact middle of South America.
The small zoo, admission to which is free, is situated on the University campus, close to the city centre, and is certainly a big surprise to any visitor who did not previously even know of its existence. It houses a variety of really striking species native to Brazil, many of them housed in natural-looking open paddocks. Furthermore, great attention seems to have been given to the information signs in front of the enclosures. Each sign gives the species' name in Portuguese, as well as the scientific name and some information about the animals, which is not always seen even in large European or North American collections. Cuiabá Zoo is directed by a biologist and has a few employed keepers. All the other staff are students from the Institute for Veterinary Medicine (and, surprisingly, not the Institute for Zoology), doing their research and helping voluntarily at the zoo, where they seem to be doing a very good job. Unfortunately, there is one important thing that no one responsible for this zoo seems to care about: the management of the captive populations. Many of the animals are either single or of the same sex, and there is not much apparent interest in forming pairs and breeding, nor in exchanging animals with other collections. So, for example, the visitor can see 1.0 giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), 1.0 black howler monkey (Alouatta caraya), 0.1 white-faced saki (Pithecia p. pithecia), 2.0 silvery marmosets (Callithrix argentata melanura), 0.3 giant otters (Pteronura brasiliensis) and 1.0 six-banded armadillo (Euphractus sexcinctus). Most of the animals live together in very interesting mixed-species exhibits: for example 1.2 tamanduas, the giant anteater and the silvery marmosets together in one enclosure, or the giant otters living in a lake, with a group of spider monkeys on an island and a family of Brazilian tapirs as well as some capybaras on the shore. The otherwise lonely six-banded armadillo shares its home with a large group of white-nosed coatis (Nasua narica) who do not seem to be very interested in their strange companion.
Interesting reptiles that can be seen here are -- apart from many smaller species living free in the zoo -- a pair of red anacondas (Eunectes murinus), as well as at least 15 Pantanal caimans (Caiman crocodilus yacare), the latter living in a small lake.
Not much thought has been put into a new building for big cats, which is not yet occupied by the animals. It provides no security at all for the keepers and, in its present state, could not cope with the needs of its future inhabitants. But, as is so often the case, the staff are fully aware of these problems and will make the best of the situation.
So, with a few reservations, this is an excellent small zoo that, contrary to what one might expect because of its being owned by the university, has not got the atmosphere of a research facility at all, but satisfies the demands of its visitors at least as well as any of the country's bigger zoos.
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