More and more people are starting to hear about the Zoo de Castellar. This private center, the brainchild of Ricardo Gistas, modestly opened its doors over 15 year ago in Castellar de la Frontera in Cadiz province. But in fact, his dream truly came to life a little over a year ago, when the zoo began to gain real recognition.
The Zoo de Castellar is much more special than it appears at first. Not only is it a recuperation center for animals taken off the black market or out of the hands of illegal owners, it’s also houses animals that were given up due to deformities or old age, and it’s a pet shelter for domestic animals who were faced with the ultimate end of being dumped off in the wilderness by their owner, and in all likelihood, who never would have survived.
This private operation has gone through many hardships throughout the years and has also been criticized for a lack thereof – notwithstanding the practically non-existent state aid. Built on land given to them by the municipality of Castellar, the rescue center has been growing and improving little by little within their means and the limited space they have. But at the end of the day, it’s been kept alive with the out-of-pocket investments of its owner, the money received from entrance fees and the support of sympathetic business and individuals.
What makes this center special isn’t just its animal rescue program; it’s its innovative philosophy which brings pleasure to young and old: The contact with the diverse range of species is total on many occasions, and this interaction is very positive – for man and beast. In the Zoo de Castellar, you can enjoy petting Adon, a white tiger cub, or Yu, a kinkajou, or Bady, the precious ocelot, or Catalina, the just two month old baboon baby. You can see the majesty of the young lion couple, Simba and Elsa and the wonderful hyena Charlie.
Few of these animals have a bright past. Yu, the kinkajou, was taken by the police from a woman who, besides not having the proper documentation, had no idea how to properly care for the animal. Yu’s unfortunate consequence: loosing most of his teeth due to poor nutrition.
We also met Charlie, the speckled hyena, who had been bought illegally as a cub to have a future as the guard dog of some estate.
Within this place, we hear of animals being rescued from circuses, confinement in shoeboxes in order to get past customs, being covered in cement or saved from the wild after being hunted from escaping from other facilities. Undoubtedly the saddest story yet is that of Simba, the young lion.
He was found in a container ship while crossing Alicante customs after having gone several days without food or water and being chained between his parents’ pelts, ivory and other illegal products. Thankfully, Simba went on to a great recovery, as most of the animals in the Zoo today have.
Nothing remains of those memories thanks to the amazing work of Ricardo Gistas and his tem of caretakers. Want to give them a hand? It’s more than enough to simply bring in some food or an old blanket when you visit. Of course, monetary donations are necessary to bring real care and happiness to these animals. It is a zoo after all, and these animals will truly make an experience for you.
Yet for all this and for its lucky enclave in Los Alcornocales Park, the Zoo de Castellar is more than recommended for spending some afternoon or weekend time. Not only is it a chance to come into direct contact with these animals or to learn about them, it’s a great opportunity to take in nature and spend some time with friends and family.
The Zoo de Castellar is open every day of the year from 10 AM until dusk. They offer year-round passes to families and individuals as well as discounts to lodgers and groups. The zoo also hosts birthday parties for children, featuring a fun guided tour and tasty treats.
Don’t forget to visit them if you haven’t already. The team will welcome you with open arms and give you an experience that will leave a mark on you.