By Silvia Oliveira
I don’t know about you, but I have the greatest difficulty in telling the difference between a parrot and a macaw, a parakeet and a budgerigar. If I’m not careful, I confuse a swan with a heron! But I’m not as hopeless as I sound. I can recognise a big-beaked toucan or a discrete peacock. I would never have visited Foz do Iguaçu’s Bird Park if it wasn’t in front of the Iguaçu National Park’s Visitors’ Centre. As it is very close to the city’s major attraction, it ends up on the afternoon itinerary – as the majority of people visit the Falls in the morning.
The tour takes, on average, from one to two hours, depending on your pace. Admission is not cheap. But the organisation that administers the attraction points out as soon as you arrive: “we are a private company and we need your help to keep the park open”. Anyway, I have to say that that the project is well-executed. It really seems that you are lost in the depths of some native forest.
You are instructed to neither feed the birds, nor shout, nor talk loudly, nor to run. The trail is very easy to follow – you don’t need a guide, everything is well-signposted – and brings the visitor into very close contact with the animals. In some parts of the trajectory you enter vast aviaries where you share space with the toucans and macaws that live there… as free as a bird, so to speak! They apear to be docile and like to play with tourists’ belongings, such as necklaces, keys, glasses and hats!
The idea of the aviaries is to try to reproduce some of the natural Brazilian habitats, such as the Pantanal. There are more than a thousand animals, for the most part birds, of both indigenous and exotic species. But you will also find caiman, butterflies, tamarins and even an iguana. Something caught my attention in the area dedicated to flamingos: several mirrors scattered around them.
Flamingos are used to living and reproducing in bands of hundreds or thousands. As there are only 20 or so in the park, the mirrors were put into place so that the thin-legged darlings would feel more protected. Freudian philosophy if ever I saw it! The Bird Park is as colourful as “Carnaval”, but at a slower, more romantic pace. It is beautiful and tranquil. It has captive breeding programmes and visits guided by biologists. Each species is identified by an explanatory sign with its scientific name and its native region. Endangered species are also given prominence.
The Golden Parakeet (also known as the Golden Conure or Queen of Bavaria Conure), for example, reproduced for the first time in captivity at the Bird Park. To finish up, avoid the use of flash photography as much as possible and do not stray from the trail. At the end of the visit there is a gift-shop in case you feel the need to buy DVDs, books or T-shirts that portray the place. I left there happy and content… even though it still seems almost impossible to me to distinguish a rhea from an ostrich! But that’s just nit-picking…
Photo: Raul Mattar
Av. das Cataratas, KM 17 (in front of the Iguaçu National Park’s Visitors’ Centre)
Tel.: (45) 3529-8282
Opening hours: Daily, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Admission: R$ 18.00