Puerto Rico's only zoo to close after years of animal welfare complaints

A monkey at the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo in Puerto Rico.
A monkey at the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo in Puerto Rico. Danica Coto/AP Photo

The only zoo in Puerto Rico will close following years of complaints about the welfare of its animals, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

The Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo is located in the town of Mayaguez. The 45-acre zoo, which contains around 300 animals, has been closed since a series of hurricanes battered Puerto Rico in 2017. Officials have now confirmed that it will never reopen.

"Animal welfare comes first," Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said during the announcement of the zoo's closure. "Questions have been raised for a long time."

Allegations of misconduct and abuse towards the zoo's animals have been swirling for years. The announcement of the zoo's shuttering comes just days after the U.S. Department of Justice said it would send veterinarians from Colorado's Wild Animal Sanctuary to inspect and evaluate the zoo.

Following the inspection, the director of the sanctuary, Pat Craig, told AP that the zoo in Puerto Rico "has been degraded," saying that the facilities were "overgrown and dilapidated to some degree."

Concerns have previously been raised about a number of individual animals at the zoo. This includes "two pumas that died, an underweight chimpanzee, and a rhinoceros named Felipe that was limping," among others, per AP. It was also determined that numerous animals at the zoo had not been vaccinated or given regular physicals.

The zoo had its exhibitors license canceled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2018 after finding numerous violations.

Craig said that the Wild Animal Sanctuary would be able to take at least 50 percent of the zoo's animals, and Puerto Rico's Department of Natural Resources said it was cooperating with the transfer. It is unclear where the remaining animals will be housed.

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