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article imageReview: At Lujan Zoo you can walk with the animals Special

By Jerry Nelson     Jul 5, 2013 in Travel
Luj - An hour west of Buenos Aires in Argentina is a spot where tourists don't often visit. Lujan Zoo will give the visitor more memories than just Tango lessons.
When you go to Buenos Aires and get tired of the Tango, churros or empanadas, then catch the number 57 bus westward to Lujan.
Waiting for you are lions and tigers and bears.
Lujan Zoo is one of only 30 zoos in the world where you can walk with the animals, inside the cages, and the only one in South America.
"My father has always loved animals," said Santiago Saimento, Zoo Administrator. "This is his dream and I'm happy I can experience a part of his dream each day."
Started in 1994 as a shelter for abandoned dogs, the zoo eventually became home to chimps who had gotten bigger and lost the “oh-isn’t-he-cute” that their owner thought when they bought the critter in the Brazilian rain forest just a few hundred kilometers away.
The author poses with  Leo  at Lujan Zoo in Buenos Aires Province  Argentina
The author poses with "Leo" at Lujan Zoo in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
After the chimps came lions and tigers that were too old to work in a circus and the circus owners weren’t able to pay for their upkeep anymore.
As the zoo’s reputation spread so did the number of people donating, and in some cases bailing out on, animals they thought would make interesting pets.
Today the zoo has over 80 species of animals, many of which can be touched, petted and fed by the several hundred thousand visitors a year that come to Lujan.
An ongoing controversy surrounding the zoo is the repeated — and wrong — allegations that the animals must be sedated in order to let the humans interact with them. Nothing could be more mistaken.
The animals, especially the lions and tigers, are raised from birth with dogs about the same age. As the feline and his “companion” grow up together, the dog serves as a sort of intermediary between the cat and humans.
Playing with the cats and nipping them when they get too rough, the dogs quickly help the cat learn boundaries between what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Along with the dogs is the fact that the animals are in contact with human beings 24 hours a day.
Raised by the owner since a cub  this tiger now roams around the owner s home like a house cat.
Raised by the owner since a cub, this tiger now roams around the owner's home like a house cat.
Jorge, the elephant keeper, has a cot in the elephant barn where he sleeps each night. He’s there to keep them company, but he’s also there to give them their regular 3 a.m. feeding — they eat over 800 pounds of vegetables a day.
One recent visitor to the Luján Zoo, Lee Ann Jensen, a college student from Texas and a committed vegan, told the Argentina Independent that the animals appeared to be treated much better than those at both the Buenos Aires Zoo and the one in La Plata, where, “the animals looked sad and emaciated.”
Primitive camping, or tent camping, is available on the grounds of the zoo and is included in the price of admission. The campground is clean and is on par with any primitive camping area in the United States.
The Luján Zoo is located just outside of Luján, at the 58km exit off of the Acceso Oeste highway. The easiest way to get there is to take the 57 bus from Plaza Italia. The fare is $20 roundtrip, and the trip takes about an hour and a half each way. The bus line has a ticket office outside of La Rural, on Avenida Sarmiento, but if the office is closed you will have to pay with coins, so come prepared.
The Luján Zoo is open everyday of the year from 9am until sunset. It closes during heavy rains. Entrance costs $40 for adults, and $30 for children under 12 years old.
More about lujan zoo, Argentina, Buenos aires, things to do in argentina, things to do in buenos aires
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