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Vigan Zoo in Baluarte

The Vigan Zoo is located on the coast of the South China sea of north Luzon island in the Philippines and just short distance outside of the old Spanish city of Vigan. Like so many zoos around the world it has two names and the Vigan Zoo is also known as the Baluarte Zoo.

This popular zoo is privately owned by Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson who established the collection in 1991 on 80 hectares of his private estate bordering the Baluarte forest.

The zoo describes itself as a "interactive wildlife sanctuary and facility" and as being "dedicated to education, conservation and the protection of endangered species and wildlife". Whereas I don't doubt that their heart is in the right place sadly this is yet another of those zoological gardens that has started to believe its own hype as is apparent from their quite good website. Putting the nonsense aside one wonders why the zoo exists at all (though there is talk of a casino being built on the site) because one of the most surprising things about this collection is that entrance is free, though I do recollect paying when I visited. Perhaps free entry is a recent innovation.

I believe it is pointless to talk about conservation when the tigers are hybrids and their appears to be a concious attempt to produce a 'Liger'. I would also question the origin of the baby Orangutans. I cannot believe that they were aquired legally.

Whereas I don't doubt that husbandry is good this place has really lost its sense of direction. Being popular it has the opportunity to actually really do something for conservation education. Sadly snake handling and painting pigs do not fit the bill.

This is one of a series of zoo reports that was actually included within my travel journal ‘The Itinerant ZooKeeper’. Initially I started to extract the zoo data but found the reading was diminished by it. So look on it as a zoo travelogue. The only major edits I have done is a little censoring and to remove the Casanova exploits.


Tuesday 7th November 2006

So why Vigan? Well there is a zoo very close by in the small town of Baluarte. I had never heard of it but Gloria had been told about it by friends. We went to the zoo via 'kalesa' which is a very pleasant way to travel and see the sights. The zoo? Well after our visit Gloria declared it and Vigan to be the most beautiful places she had ever visited in the Philippines. For me, well Vigan, yes I love it, but the zoo?  No, sorry.

My problem is that now I have seen so many really bad places that this collection actually comes out good and yet really there was nothing good about it all, except perhaps the butterfly garden. This was of very little educational value but it was beautifully clean, neat, tidy and well presented with an abundance of butterflies. Practically all of these were just the one species. There were two of another.

The zoo itself was exceptionally clean. There were English language labels on most of the cages. Sadly a lot of this was misinformation. The diets as seen were totally inadequate. Cage furniture did not exist and enrichment was not yet a fixture of anyones imagination. Barriers where in place were more by accident than design (we walked through the ostrich paddock to reach the butterfly house). Yet there was an evidence of caring. Sadly this is yet another of those places where we see ignorance at work coupled no doubt with a shortage of funds.

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Lion mates Tiger in Vigan Zoo

Anything special here? Yes most definitely. Pigs again....labelled as wild boar but definitely one of the warty pigs and different to those I saw in Manila.

There were pigs labelled the 'Wild pig of Zambales' which looked to be domestic to me. Then there were 'Vietnamese pigs' and these didn't resemble any of the domestic Vietnamese breeds I am aware of (and I have read books about them). Then there were two pens of the 'Wild boar' cum warty pigs. I think the chances are that all or many were crossed with the domestics.

There were tigers here. Four in two hopelessly too small barred cages. Both had pools but both were empty. There were two young Orangutans. They were together in a lousy little boring cage. Eagles, Iguanas, Macaques, Palm Civets (usual back seat), Pigeons, Pythons,
Lories, Macaws, Wallabies, White Fallow Deer and other than the previously mentioned, there was very little else.

Those who would be or could be critical of the zoos of the Philippines (like me) really have to adjust their way of thinking. Dogs are a popular pet here but are nearly always kept chained or in 'dog houses'. These are not the houses of 'Tom & Jerry' cartoons but tiny metal barred boxes on legs as in the worst sort of laboratory cage. These are seemingly acceptable to all. After all every pet shop sells them and everybodys neighbour has one. To be frank they are bloody awful and totally unsuitable....but are the norm here. So if these are "good" for dogs then it is logical that something along these lines must be okay for other animals. They are not of course but it is going to be a long uphill struggle to change the mindset. Keep in mind that
nobody is deliberately being cruel.

We went to the Karaoke bar again this evening. There were many good singers there but none so good as Gloria who sang me the Abba song 'Fernando' as a reminder of where we met. True enough, I will never hear that song without thinking of her.

Vigan Zoo in Baluarte

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Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on December 11, 2009:

Thanks Dohn - Gloria was the love of my life for a couple of years. I never stop loving the women I love. Sadly some become extremely difficult to live with. Gloria was one of these...but I do miss her. Vigan was a very odd zoo. Out of a mould of its own.

dohn121 from Hudson Valley, New York on December 11, 2009:

This zoo certainly sounds less endowed in comparison to many of the other zoos. Gloria "sounds" like a fun gal. Great job again, Peter.

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