El Nispero Zoo in El Valle
The Los Nispero Zoo, located in El Valle, is not your ordinary zoo. In fact, at the beginning it didn’t even set out to be a zoo. The 7-acre plot of land, owned by a local agronomist with a large collection of birds, started as a small for-profit nursery. The nursery slowly became somewhat of an animal sanctuary as people began to bring the agronomist sick and abandoned animals. Today Los Nispero Zoo is home to over 90 different species of animals, tropical birds, and endangered amphibians. Thanks to an international exchange program the zoo has received animals from the U.S, Asia and Mexico.
This privately owned zoo is a great place to see animals you may have missed on your nature hike. Toucans, macaws, hawks, spider monkeys, tiki monkeys, sloths, jaguars and more reside at the zoo.
The El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC), is located inside the zoo, and is one of the only places to catch a glimpse of Panama’s iconic golden frog. EVACC is the first-ever conservation-breeding center to protect Panama’s endangered amphibians. The center was built in 2007 as an emergency response to chytrid fungus, an infectious disease plaguing amphibians globally.
When chytrid hit El Valle in 2006, residents were quick to respond. Conservationists Edgardo Griffth and Heidi Ross began collecting frogs and moving them to a captive environment. At the time it was a hotel room in Hotel Campestre. The frogs were moved to EVACC when the facility was ready.
EVACC, now in its fourth year, is home to the first clutch of golden frog babies born in captivity. While the 42 young frogs are not on display, you can see one golden frog, who’s not quite as golden as you might expect.
On your way to see the frogs, it’s hard to miss the jaguars. When we arrived at their pavilion they were asleep. Then, a zookeeper passing by leant over the surrounding fence and placed his hand on the chain link cage. Immediately the female cat came over and affectionately rubbed her head against his hand.
While the Jaguar’s cage is one of the biggest at the zoo, some would say it is still too small. The Coyotes patrolled an even smaller concrete pavilion, and looked a little undernourished. The reality is, the zoo is doing the best it can. If you would like to make a donation to the zoo you can send them a note saying so at: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to get to El Valle & the Los Nispero Zoo
The turn to El Valle is approximately 15 minutes past Coronado (driving towards David). Right before the turn you will see a sign indicating a right turn to El Valle. A windy road will take you up through the mountain and down into the valley.
Just before the market you will see a Melo on your right. Turn right on the street directly after the Melo store. Follow this street until the end (you will reach a dead end). There will be parking for the zoo on your right.
It will take about an hour to get to the Zoo from Coronado.
Entrance fees are $2.00 for locals and $3.00 for foreigners.
The zoo is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (the Amphibian center opens at 9:00 a.m.)