In April 2007 Olaf Paterok and myself took a ten-day tour to see the most important and interesting zoological collections in Portugal and to visit the new Omega Parque in the south of Portugal, which unfortunately has announced that it is to be closed very soon. During our tour we learned that we were lucky to see a number of other collections which are on the point of changing their appearance or closing. So it was the right time to do a survey and get an impression of the current situation of zoos, zoo design and wild animal husbandry in Portugal.
This park was opened in 1990 mainly as a bird collection, though some mammals such as gibbons were also displayed during the first ten years. Some years ago, however, the city authorities took over the park and developed a new philosophy under which the small (only two-hectare) park was to be used exclusively for exhibiting birds. The first step was to create a very professional website and new signs in the zoo. It was very similar to what we saw some days before at Maia Zoo – new visitor barriers, new fences and very neat vegetation all along the walkways and exhibits. Visiting the park today gives a good impression about how it looked ten years ago – nothing has changed for the animals. All the numerous birds live in small cages and some middle-sized aviaries. The highlight is a row of five glass-fronted aviaries for hornbills and pheasants. Some paddocks in the middle of the park are used for keeping large birds like ostriches, rheas and cassowaries. Around a small lake some flamingo and waterfowl exhibits are sited, as well as a row of really old cages for owls. These cages in particular look very much like former primate or carnivore cages.
Due to a good climate and high humidity very nice vegetation with a lot of bamboo has become established. From the aquarium in Arcozelo it is a 20-minute drive to Lourosa, which is about 15 km south of Oporto. The bird park is well signed and the entrance fee is €2.50. On the sign giving the opening times we found a rarity in zoos – something we had never seen before. The sign said that 800 visitors would be the maximum number of people allowed to enter the park.
Among the interesting species we saw at the park were two pairs of western capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), blue-throated piping guan (Pipile c. cumanensis), great argus (Argusianus argus), and several different species of curassows including northern helmeted curassow (Pauxi p. pauxi). Many more beautiful species were on display.