Animal Advocates Urge Puerto Rico Officials to Take Action on Troubled Zoo
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – More than 100 animals, including an African elephant named Mundi and a chimpanzee named Magnum, live in abysmal conditions at the Dr. Juan A. Rivero National Zoological Park, Puerto Rico’s only official zoo. The treatment of these animals violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Puerto Rico’s animal cruelty laws, which mandate animals be provided shelter, safe food, and adequate veterinary care.
Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sent a letter to Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced urging her to use her authority to order the revocation of any permits granted to the Dr. Juan A. Rivero National Zoological Park, known as the Mayaguez Zoo, and immediately send the animals to sanctuaries. This is the second such request, with the first having been made to Puerto Rico’s previous governor. The animals’ situation has not improved since that first request was made — rather the urgency grows the longer they are kept in the zoo’s poor conditions.
“The evidence shows that all the animals at the Mayaguez Zoo, including endangered species, continue to suffer due to ongoing inadequate care, in violation of the law,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. “We hope that Governor Vazquez will cooperate with the Animal Legal Defense Fund in moving these animals to sanctuaries where they will receive the care they need.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture revoked the Mayaguez Zoo’s Animal Welfare Act (AWA) exhibitors’ license in 2018. Despite this, the zoo has illegally continued to exhibit animals and has allowed members of the public to view and interact with animals. The Animal Legal Defense Fund also filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), seeking records regarding the termination of the zoo’s license. The Animal Legal Defense Fund also requested that APHIS investigate and take enforcement action against the Zoo, which it denied.
Indeed, the Mayaguez Zoo’s troubling record is long and well-documented. U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection reports reveal chronic violations of the AWA at the zoo, with numerous animals having died in recent years due to poor sanitation, inadequate veterinary care, filthy enclosures, and untrained staff.
Several animals, including Mundi and a rhinoceros named Felipe, were injured likely due to the inappropriate flooring in their enclosures. Photographic evidence appears to show the zoo using a bullhook on Mundi, as well — a cruel disciplinary tool that is illegal to use on Mundi under the ESA. Eneida, a red kangaroo, was repeatedly ill due to suspected poisoning from the wood her shelter was built with. A puma named Kali died in August 2017 after limping for months, without having been provided sufficient veterinary care. The zoo chronically fails to provide adequate care to members of threatened and endangered species and other animals.
Multiple sanctuaries have offered to rehome some of the animals. A committee appointed by the Puerto Rico government echoed its support for moving the zoo’s animals to sanctuaries. But no animal has been transferred to date.
A copy of the letter and photos of the zoo are available upon request.
In a letter to the USDA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and others explain the zoo has repeatedly violated standards of the Animal Welfare ActJune 2, 2021 Press Release
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is deeply saddened by the death of elephants Beulah and Karen and is committed to supporting legislation pending in Massachusetts to prohibit the use of elephants and certain other wild animals used in circuses.September 19, 2019 News
Dr. Juan A. Rivero National Zoological Park has been illegally operating without federal license for more than a year.April 4, 2019 Press Release