Zoo Visit – Vegan Style 016

Good Morning Baja! We are here in the zoo. And yeah, why is a vegan in a zoo? Well you’re going to find out in just a minute. You’re listening to episode 016 of our podcast where we’re going to talk about the Mexican Connection Escapees trip that we’re on; we’re going to tell you about a great vegan meal we had last night in Baja, and as a special treat, our first ever interview, this one from a zoo/sanctuary in the Valley of Guadalupe. So thanks for joining us!


Welcome to the “Two Vegans on a Mission” podcast. I’m Louisa and together with my husband Michael and our dog Sugar, we’re traveling and living full time in a Winnebago View, Class C motorhome…visiting farm sanctuaries, animal rescues and animal shelters all across the country. Each week we’ll share what new camping spots we’ve found, what great vegan meals we’ve eaten, and finally our latest vegan activism event we’ve participated in. So please join us as we strive to inspire, educate and support all those who are trying to save their health, save the animals, and save our planet.

So this week we find ourselves hanging out with a wonderful group of Escapees. These are people who are in a club called Escapees. We are not running from anything! We are 55 rigs heading to Baja, California and about 102 people. So first, we’re going to start off with our interview of the week with our friend Perla.

Interview with Perla at the Zoo

Hello, I’m Perla, welcome to the zoo!. It’s Zoologico Parque del Nino. It’s in the heart of Valle de Guadalupe in Ensenada, Mexico. And I’m going to be talking about a little bit of the story, how it started.

More than 15 years ago, randomly, my grandfather got a camel, not as a gift, but some people owed him money. So they were back in the days like, oh, I’m going to pay you with a camel. Very randomly, he accepted it and we had it in the family farm. This park was opened 10 years ago and we were going crazy because first it was going to be a park because my grandfather used to have, well, he has three parks in Baja. The entrance was 100% free and it was for the people with low income. So basically he just wanted to help the people and he was able to afford the parks because we have a dairy farm.

So having a dairy farm in Baja, it’s a lot of workers but with a lot of families as well. One of the big things that my grandfather made is that each worker of the dairy farm, each one of them will have a house with a room, two rooms, one kitchen for a family of four. So he will always give back to the people. Yes, they will be paid as well. But he says back in the day that he will be very generous with them, the people will never betray him. So he started with two parks and then the big one was going to be in Valle de Guadalupe . They was still only like three wine companies around. So basically everything started growing, like all the wine industry started growing up with the zoo. So people are like, what is a zoo doing in the wine valley? But it works.

History of the Zoo

It’s … So making his third park and seeing that a lot of kids from Valle de Guadalupe will go to our family farm to see the camel. So my grandfather will start seeing the kids like, oh, can we go into your place to see the camel and taking picture with them and everything. So he says, well, when I have the park ready, I’ll put the camel in there. And he did. He bought a female camel and the camel had a baby and everyone was going crazy. And then people saw that my grandfather had legal papers for the camel. So it was everything was legalized. We have the permit and everything and all of the sudden, another person, hey, I have a lion. I can’t have it anymore from another private zoo. So my grandfather was like, oh, let me build a cage.

Rescue animals

And all of the sudden we just started rescuing animals. We have paid for animals occasionally, but it was only to have them by pairs and never by themselves because if we have them by themselves, they will lose their instinct. They will be more like pets. They will be more alone. So basically, we just wants to have them by pairs and if they’re older, better because they will not be able to reproduce because that’s not our main goal.

Our main goal is not to have more and more and more, in the contrary, we want to give them the best life for the rest of their lives, if I make any sense. So yes, my grandfather started getting monkeys, but the good thing it was that we were getting animals that were kept as pets illegally. So now that we were like a legit institution of a “zoologico” which is a zoo, but we don’t like the name zoo. We consider it more like a sanctuary because we want to keep our animals happy, healthy.

Me as a children growing up, going on the school, I will have to go to a zoo or an aquarium, not to say any names and I will be the girl that will ask, Mom, why is this bird in a cage? Mom, why is this lion not in the jungle, Mom, why is that? And then my mom will try to convince me like, oh well because, and she will also be heartbroken because of my expression because it was very true.

So now it was so ironically that we started having a zoo. But the good thing is that having people like me, like my grandfather started it. My mom is a zoo director and I’m the subdirector, but I’m always like helping my mom make this a better place.

Animal Care

Oh my God, this animal needs this, this animal needs that. So we care for our animals in a way that even zoos from other part, will be like it’s too much, but we don’t care. We just want to give them the best life ever and as long as we can take care of them, we like to have them by quality, not quantity.

So sometimes they will be like, oh, we just got an animal from the government. We need to put it in someplace safe. Sometimes we have to say no because we can’t, it’s so expensive. A lion, tiger will eat like six pounds of raw chicken or meat or horse meat, so it’s a lot of cost.

So I can see that you really take care of the animals well and that you really love doing that. But I have a big question, “how can you afford that?”

Costs of running the zoo/sanctuary

Good question. We can’t afford it. I mean the milk company, it’s helping us with money in order to maintain this place because it was like … My grandfather passed away three years ago, so my family was planning, oh, we can sell it, we can do this, we can do that. But my mom, my sister and I, we were thinking like, well, do you know what? We think it has potential. Let’s keep it alive for 10 more years and from there on, see what’s going to happen.

And basically, we’re just charging … This park used to be free when my grandfather was alive, it used to be free because a lot of people don’t have the money or the income to go and just go into a zoo plus Baja, California only has like three zoos and they are not that expensive, but ours was free. So we will have traffic coming over. We charge only 70 pesos, which is like $3.50 and it’s only two feed the animals, that’s it, to pay the staff members, to feed the animals and to keep the place clean. We also have a park, we have a garden, so we need to have everything looking good.

So I know the other day when you first spoke with our group, you said that you were going to become a nonprofit organization. Could you tell us more about that?

Non-profit organization status

So yes, we’re going to be a nonprofit organization because we don’t want the dairy farm to take care of this place anymore. We want it to be self sustainable in order for us to keep it alive, keep it beautiful for everyone to see. And I believe in April of 2019 we’re going to be a legit nonprofit organization because people love to help us. They see this place and they were like, how can we help? And we love it. We love that people want to help us and I think it’s going to be the right decision.

Okay. So in April you’ll become the nonprofit, you think. But in the meantime, if people were coming down to the valley, to the wineries and visiting and they said, hey, I want to help, what could they do to help?

How others can help

So basically people that want to donate contact us via Facebook, which is Zoologico Parque del Nino the name of the institution and they will ask us and we have a little wishlist.

It can be either a dollar, $2 or they can bring us blankets, water gallons, etc. for medical care and sometimes they just, from San Diego I receive some people that want to donate money. So I’ll just basically give them my email and through that I will give them specific information about where to send the check to our PO Box .

I love to keep in contact with them and send them the receipt and the product that we bought with their money because Mexico doesn’t have the good fame, so I just like to prove them wrong and send them what they … And they even feel good about it.

And if it’s more than a hundred dollars, we will put a little plate with their name so they can feel special about giving something good for the animals.

You mentioned earlier about getting donations like blankets. What would you use blankets for?


Good question. It’s mostly for medical care. Last night I received, not an email, an inbox from Facebook saying that a family was coming down to Baja for wine, to wine tasting and it was at night. So an owl crashed her window, their windshield. And she called me, she knew me, so, “Perla, I need help, this poor owl. It’s bleeding”.

So that’s when we need the blankets. Instead of … It was raining last night, so all the hay is super wet. So instead of putting hay or anything else, we just put like a clean blanket into it.

So then were you able to release that owl back into the wild? And, do you have other examples of that kind of situation?

So of course if the owl is in good condition to be set free, that’s our main goal. To fix the animal and set him free…healthy. We have been having other occasions, for example, when some coyotes, a car ran over a young coyote and the government institution brought us the animal to see if we could help.

Sometimes they don’t have any income to help us with the animal, but we like when they bring us animals that we can actually set free because we’re giving a good example to the people around. If they’re coyotes, owls, we get to free them as long as they’re healthy, they can eat by themselves, they can fly correctly, and yeah, especially if they’re healthy.

Exotic animals

So how did you get your puma and your llamas and all those exotic animals that you have?

So the puma that we have, he is called “Rojo”. He’s two years old. His mom was shot in the mountains, mountain people that live traditionally, they have their own cow to either eat the meat or have their milk. They got scared of the puma or maybe the puma wanted to eat their animals. So they just shot him. They saw that she had a cub, so they called the government agency to pick up the cub and brought it to us, brought it over to the zoo.

Obviously being so young, two month old puma, we cannot set them free because they get used to the people because we fed them when he was very, very little. So if we set the puma free again in the mountains, his instincts is going to be to go back to the humans because we feed them, we treat him well, so he will want to have that treatment as well.

And the llamas, funny story, there’s a private zoo here in Baja and they had so many llamas. These were old and they wanted to convert them into rugs. So my boyfriend freaked out and he was like, oh, can we take care of them? So we got them for free and now we have five beautiful old llamas.

Finally, we have couple of owls here in the park. And yes, this is literally where they live in Valle de Guadalupe. But some of them, either they can’t see that well, meaning they cannot hunt at night, or the eagle, he cannot fly because he was shot in the wing. So that is why we have them and people will be like, oh, why can’t you set them free? But it’s because those reasons. If it wasn’t for us, they will be dead or they couldn’t eat or some other animal will eat it.


Finally, we also have a couple of monkeys. People will be like, oh, how did you get that monkey? Well actually those monkeys were pet monkeys and the government confiscated them, brought them over and have them here.

Future plans

And all in all, we have around 62 species. Some rescued, some donated and we have approximately 200 plus animals. So we got this project three years ago and our main goal is to make bigger enclosures with no fences. For example, we have five spider monkeys that are in a big enough cage, but we just made big island for them. They’re afraid of the water, that way that is our fence, but it’s more free. They have natural trees, they have a grass. Even their night room has a partition, a split, with a controlled climate.

How can people help?

So Perla, if people want to donate money to the organization, what kinds of things would they be able to put that money towards?

If people want to donate money, for example, last year the Mexican Connection gave us a check and with that we were able to build a structure to have shade for the hippopotamus.

Well that’s a wonderful thing to have been able to donate to. So this has been a really fun interview with you, Perla, and I’m so happy that we’re able to sit down and talk about the fact that this is not just your normal kind of zoo. This is more like a sanctuary/zoo.

I hope anybody who is interested in helping out will contact Perla through her Facebook page and/or could come down here and just come to the zoo and see for yourself what great work they’re doing.

So you can find all of the information about the zoo and contact Perla personally by going to her Instagram, which is @zoologico_jersey that is zoologico_jersey.

Go there and see all the wonderful pictures of the animals in the zoo sanctuary and you can contact her there and see how you might be able to donate if you so choose.

Okay, so it’s a little bit odd that we were here at the zoo. Having said that we are protecting the animals and we are voices for the animals. So at first we weren’t going to go in to the zoo and see all the animals because we don’t support zoos.

But then we decided we would go in and see what kind of zoo this was and maybe we would report on it in a different way. But it turns out that this zoo really is a sanctuary for the area. I really felt that the owners are wanting to save animals, protect animals, and then be a place for the people who can’t get to the San Diego Zoo and see how good of work they’re doing up there, would have a place to come and see what animals are all about, but they don’t necessarily breed them.

They don’t try to exploit the animals, but they do try to keep them safe and then let those that they rescue go back into the wild. So Michael, what is your take on all of this?

Michael’s take on the zoo

So I think this is a great sanctuary zoo in Baja, California. These people are doing great service for animals that have been in places like a circus and folks have … All the time you read about in the newspapers where they’ll get themselves a baby tiger and then suddenly grow up, find out that the tiger is too large for them to take care of.

This family is taking in these animals, giving them great care, food, veterinary services and extremely low price for the people of Baja to come in and see animals here that they wouldn’t normally get an opportunity to see. So I really hope that if you’re traveling along Route 3 toward Ensenada, stop in at the zoo and see this, all the wonderful animals here in the sanctuary.

So next up, we’re going to talk about the wonderful vegan meal we had. So stay tuned.

Our Vegan Dinner in the Valley

We had a really nice dinner last night with our new friends with the Escapees Mexican Connection. It was at a restaurant called Cieli Cerveza y Vino which is something to do with heavenly beer and wine. And it was so nice because the owners were able to keep this restaurant open. It usually closes at six, but I called ahead and they were willing to open their doors longer as long as we got there by six. And then they made us a wonderful meal and Michael’s going to talk about it.

Michael discusses our meal

So to get to this restaurant, you go up this really windy rural road and once you get there, it is a rustic, open air, beautiful restaurant that overlooks a valley. I had a very fresh salad that had a raspberry sauce and almonds on top, just absolutely delicious. And then for my main course, I had seasoned vegetables I have never tasted. They were spicy. They were delicious. They were fresh. And I also had a glass of white chardonnay that was absolutely wonderful.

So this was not a vegan restaurant per se. In fact, when I spoke with the restauranteur, he’s suggested that we have rib eye steaks, sausages and some spaghetti with meat sauce. And I said, oh, well we have about six or seven vegans or vegetarians in the party, so could he please make some kind of concessions for us and the chef went out of his way, I have to say.

We had 16 people and they were willing to make a buffet style dinner for us. So they brought out these platters of salad first that Michael mentioned with raspberry vinaigrette dressing and the other salads had some kind of creamy dressing. So the vegans just ate the raspberry one, but it was very good. That salad was amazing. Everyone loved it. Then there was some white bread that came with that and some olive oil and then they brought out platters of the rib eye steak that they sat in front of everyone and they brought out the spaghetti, which had some cheese on top.

So we just scraped the cheese off and then ate around it. But they also had the platters of grilled vegetables, like Michael said, also had a wonderful seasoning to them so we did not at all feel like we were meant to starve last night.

Also we had bottles of wine for 16 and I had a really nice sweet wine that was excellent. So we had all of that for $30 a person and then we paid a little tip in there as well. It was a wonderful meal with wonderful new friends and we couldn’t have been happier.

Shout outs!

Speaking of those wonderful new friends, we want to talk a little bit about the Mexican Connection Chapter 8 with the Escapees and a big shout out to Ed and Cassandra who are in charge of all of this. There are 102 people here with about 55 RVs and they are the coordinators of everything so they are doing a wonderful job.

We’d also like to give a shout out to our group leader, that is Bob and his wife Kathy. They’re really doing a great job in making sure that we all have something to do during the day if we choose to like going to lunch or going to dinner or making sure we’re there when the evening happy hour begins and they are awesome people as well.

And finally another big shout out to Don and Linda, our new neighbors because they have been so helpful in helping us with our new RV in things like our generator that seems to be a little wonky but it might be just user error. And so we are getting tips and tricks on how to make sure that we know how to run our new RV.

La Mesa Rv in El Cajon, California

And a final shout out to the Mesa RV Service Center in El Cajon, California. Ryan was the service manager who got us an immediate appointment. Mark was his assistant and the service technician, Manny, he really took the time to educate me about the workings of our RV and troubleshooting our problems. So don’t hesitate to send your businesses to La Mesa RV.

And so we’ve come to the end of another episode of Two Vegans on a Mission podcast. Thank you for joining us this week. And remember, you can visit us on our website at www.vegansonamission.com or you can follow all the pictures in our Instagram page, which is @heaveninaclassc and see all the pictures of the animals or of the food we eat and the places that we camp.

We hope you join us next week as we head towards Ensenada and we stay at a place called La Jolla Beach, which is in Mexico. So as always, we thank you for joining us and, Adios!

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We are a retired teacher, Louisa, and a retired physician assistant, Michael, married for 39 years, who want to help busy travelers begin and maintain a healthy life-style while on the road.


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