‘Neglectful’ zoo with lonely ape and limping rhino called ‘Felipe’ is shut down

A zoo suspected of years of animal neglect after several premature deaths of animals is to close its doors for good.

The Puerto Rican Government ordered the US territory’s only zoo to permanently close today (February 28)/

They also announced federal authorities will be investigating allegations of the mistreatment of animals.

More than 300 different animals are currently resident here, including a lonely ape, a limping rhino named Felipe and a kangaroo with no shelter.

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Dr Juan A Rivero Zoo in the western coastal town of Mayaguez has been closed since September 2017 – when hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island, and the site has now been described as "dilapidated".

Activists have now raised questions about the the welfare of animals at the 45-acre facility and their future.

Governor Pedro Pierluisi said: “Animal welfare comes first. Questions have been raised for a long time.”

Earlier this month, US Attorney Stephen Muldrow announced that experts from The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado would inspect and evaluate the animals.

They said that “the safe and humane care for all zoo animals is a top priority of the Justice Department”.

Experts were meant to visit the site ahead of the 2017 closure, but the visit did not take place until Sunday, sanctuary executive director Pat Craig told The Associated Press.

He said: “The zoo definitely has been degraded. You can imagine the facilities were overgrown and dilapidated to some degree.”

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Mr Craig said the animals were healthy enough to travel for the most part, although he noted that a mountain lion has a growth on one arm that veterinarians are still inspecting.

He also said he was concerned about the zoo’s lone chimpanzee since apes require socialisation.

Adding that the team did not find anything that required immediate attention.

Back in 2018, the US Department of Agriculture cancelled the zoo’s exhibitor licence over dozens of violations – including a thin tiger that was euthanised and a distressed cougar living in a cramped space.

Previously, a government-appointed committee also raised concerns about two pumas that died, an underweight chimpanzee and a rhinoceros named Felipe that was limping.

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Reports also claimed dozens of animals needed vaccines or physical tests, and animals including a kangaroo and a porcupine did not have shelters.

In January, officials announced that an American black bear named Nina who was more than 20 years old died from unspecified health complications after she stopped eating – despite the species typically living up to 35 years in captivity.

Activists Christian Rios, who is also president of an animal rights commission at Puerto Rico’s Association of Attorneys called for full transparency as officials prepare for the transfer of certain animals.

“We are not letting our guard down,” Mr Rios said, adding that those responsible should face the consequences.

“We are sorry that all these complaints have taken a long time to be heard.”


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