During a short visit to Chiapas, I had a chance to visit one of the most celebrated zoos in Latin America.
Perhaps I had the urge to visit a zoo because I was staying in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital of the state, and I had been told that the name of this town is a corruption of “Tuchtlán” which means “The Place Where You Find Rabbits.”
Having seen not a single rabbit hopping down the streets of Tuxtla, Susy and I figured we’d surely find a few at Zoológico Regional Miguel Álvarez del Toro, popularly known as ZooMAT, and conveniently located at the south end of the city.
In several ways, this zoo struck me as quite unusual. First because every single one of its 1,600 animals is native to Chiapas. Then there is its location. Most zoos I’ve seen look as if their architects started with a flat, featureless plot of ground which was then landscaped. Here in Chiapas, however, you have jungle everywhere and it appears they chose one of their finest tropical forests, put in paths, and transformed it into a zoo so beautiful that a walk through it would be utterly delightful even if you never saw a single animal.