Following years of alleged carelessness, a lack of funding, and animal fatalities that activists highlighted, Puerto Rico is closing the U.S. territory’s sole zoo. Since hurricanes Irma and Maria tore across the island in September 2017, the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo in the western coastal town of Mayaguez has been closed, raising concerns from campaigners about the zoo’s more than 300 animals and their future.
The 45-acre zoo will be permanently closed, the government of Puerto Rico declared on Monday, as federal officials look into claims of animal abuse. Gov. Pedro Pierluisi told reporters, “Animal welfare comes first. “Questions have long been brought up.”The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado will inspect and assess the animals,” according to U.S. Attorney Stephen Muldrow, who stated earlier this month that “the safe and humane treatment for all zoo animals is a key concern of the Justice Department.”
In 2017, before the hurricanes hit, sanctuary officials were meant to visit the zoo; instead, they went on Sunday, according to sanctuary executive director Pat Craig, who noted that people were already worried about the animals at that time. The zoo has unquestionably declined, he declared. As you could expect, the facilities were quite unkempt and overgrown. He claimed that, for the most part, the animals were healthy enough to travel, although he did mention that a mountain lion had a tumor on one leg that doctors are still checking.
Craig added that because apes need socializing, he was worried about the zoo’s lone chimpanzee. He declined to disclose more information, stating that the involvement of the US Justice Department placed restrictions on the amount of information he could divulge. He did, however, emphasize that nothing was discovered by the crew that needed immediate attention. After noting hundreds of infractions in prior years, including the euthanization of a thin tiger and the living conditions of a distraught cougar in a small enclosure, the U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended the zoo’s exhibitor license in February 2018.
An earlier government-appointed commission had expressed worries about two dead pumas, an underweight chimpanzee, and a limping rhinoceros. It was mentioned that a kangaroo and a porcupine were among the animals without shelter and that dozens of creatures required vaccinations or physical examinations. An American black bear named Nina, who was over 20 years old, passed away from unidentified health issues in January, according to official announcements. Necropsy findings have not been made public.
According to Craig, his organization may give the government of Puerto Rico a free transfer of up to 50% of the zoo’s animals. Given Colorado’s climate, they would not accept primates or unusual birds. The Department of Natural Resources of Puerto Rico has said that it is collaborating with the ongoing inquiry into the zoo as well as planning for transfers.
The department’s secretary, Anas Rodrguez, said, “We have not skimped on the hunt for alternatives so that…the best possible care and safety of all the animals that dwell there are ensured.” She said that it was only four years ago that the agency took over management of the zoo. Christian Ros, who serves as president of the association of attorneys in Puerto Rico’s animal rights commission, was one of the activists who hailed the zoo’s upcoming closure. When officials were ready to move some animals, he urged complete transparency.
Ros declared, “We are not letting our guard down,” adding that those accountable must bear the consequences. “We apologize that it has taken so long to respond to all of these issues.”