Bioparc, the overgrown jungle of a zoo in Fuengirola calls itself “a different kind of zoo,” and it really is. Unlike the orderly, archaic zoos of our childhood, with well-barred cages, methodical queues, ropes cordoning off spectator zones and enormous ‘Do not feed the lion’ signs displayed on the front of small enclosures housing wild beasts, pacing back and forth in their minuscule impounds this zoo prefers to immerse you in the animals’ own natural environment. The objective of Bioparc was to create a zoo in which the animals could live side-by-side in their own natural habitat so as to observe their behaviour and interaction in their original surroundings as well as to promote their development. In doing this, it also enables visitors to lose themselves in an abundant and lush jungle right in the heart of Fuengirola. The park has been designed to resemble a forest; with vegetation, trees, sand and earth all imported from their original locations and composed to best resemble their fundamental state and layout. This dense jungle has been divided into three different areas – Madagascar, Equatorial Africa and South-east Asia. In each zone, the park has recreated with great skill and precision the climate, vegetation, humidity and all elements of the inhabitants’ natural environments, including constructing a Baobab tree, a species unique to Madagascar. This specially made version ranks as one of the largest artificial trees in the world. The zoo’s unique design, beautiful layout and novel approach to animals in captivity takes children and adults alike on an exciting journey of discovery as they enter foreign lands and observe exotic birds and wild creatures up close. The abundance of plants and trees creates an oasis in which the whole family can wander about freely as though they’ve stepped right into The Jungle Book! As well as its geographical zones, the zoo has a grandstand where shows take place that are both educational and entertaining, and will enthral even the youngest of spectators. When they have seen more animals than they can possibly name and have taken in as much information as they can retain, there is a fabulous 500 square metre play area for the children to run, climb and jump like the chimpanzees and monkeys that they have been watching! This kids’ zone features a labyrinth, Robinson Crusoe tree huts, rope swings and climbing frames, and is perfectly located by the cafeteria so that adults can sit and enjoy a well-earned cup of tea. Since it was first conceived, Bioparc Fuengirola was intended to house species whose reproduction was of the utmost importance. To this end a selective collection plan was implemented, leading to the construction of enclosures specially designed for this purpose. Through these efforts, and the high standard of their veterinary staff and facilities, Fuengirola Zoo has won the trust of the EEP (European Endangered Species Programme), and has been entrusted with valuable examples of high-profile species such as the Sumatran Tiger and the Bornean Orangutan. During their short time at the zoo, the orangutans have already reproduced and the encouraging social behaviour of many young pairs at the centre suggests that the bioparc is a promising location for the conservation of species. It is a heartening sign that the zoo will continue its captive breeding programme of rare and endangered species, and that these creatures can thrive in this (verdant) manmade urban jungle. Bioparc Fuengirola really is a great day out for all the family; interesting, educational, fun and friendly. You’ll come away having learnt something new and with a vague sense of surprise and wonder. The children will be dying to go back…and if you’re honest, so will you!