The history of the Santo Inácio Zoo, in Vila Nova de Gaia, merges with the history of the Guedes family, a typical Porto family linked to the wine business. Who says it is Roberto Guedes, who is 74 years old and is responsible for the project that celebrates two decades in June. He grew up in Quinta da Aveleda, in Penafiel, and it was there that as a child he gained a strong connection with the land and animals. “My education has always been focused on the rural world, it is part of my DNA and when I don't have it, I miss it”, he says in an interview with the Observer. It is in a garden, in a park or in a forest, that Roberto feels at home. “As a kid I went fishing, looked for worms in the manure, played with frogs in the lake and rode horses, the most used transport at that time. Growing up in this environment was a privilege. ”
Her paternal grandmother inherited Quinta de Santo Inácio de Fiães, which included a noble house built in the early 18th century, a chapel dedicated to Inácio de Loyola – saint who founded the Society of Jesus, a religious order whose members are known by Jesuits – and 15 hectares with eucalyptus, pine, oak and a large orchard. “When I found it, it was practically abandoned. It was mainly used for agriculture, but the caretaker told me that the price he was paid for the fruit was not enough for transportation to the supermarket. It was, therefore, a very unprofitable business. ”
In 1996, when he started working at the family company, Quinta da Aveleda, he was offered the challenge of giving life to these lands, maintaining the natural heritage of that place. Roberto thought of several things, from a housing unit to a biological park, and even traveled through England, France, Italy and Spain just to be inspired. “The space was small to develop agriculture, the only way to continue this relationship with nature was to move headlong into a park that had animals.”
The idea of adding wildlife to the environment was still timid in the north of the country, with the exception of the Jardim Zoologico da Maia, “an old park that showed animals as a collection of stamps”. His intention was another, to build a wide, green space, where animals would feel good and the public could forget that he was in a big city.