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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Colorado sanctuary to start receiving some Mayagüez zoo animals next month

Many large carnivores from the shuttered zoo in Mayagüez, including tigers, bears and wolves, will be transported to a sanctuary in Colorado, while primates, birds and other animals that can’t handle the cold will be sent to other locations.

By The Star Staff

The Colorado Wild Animal Sanctuary should start receiving animals from the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo in Mayagüez in May, a stateside publication has reported.

The nonprofit sanctuary in Keenesburg, about 45 minutes north of Denver, is currently preparing to receive and relocate hundreds of animals from Puerto Rico’s only zoo, Axios Denver reported. Many large carnivores will go to Colorado, including tigers, bears and wolves. But primates, birds, and other animals that can’t handle the cold will be sent elsewhere.

“It’s going to be a lot of work,” sanctuary spokesperson Derek McCormick told Axios Denver. “But we’re ready.”

Authorities ordered the 45-acre zoo in Mayagüez, which is under the control of the island Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, to close earlier this year amid a federal investigation into complaints of animal abuse. It hasn’t been open to the public since hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the area in late 2017.

The relocation of the animals is estimated to be the most significant airlift transfer of exotic animals globally, McCormick told Axios Denver.

Sanctuary staff is scrambling to nail down a slew of logistics, from building and shipping animal crates to Puerto Rico to lining up flights and ground transportation, preparing enclosures, and securing other safe spaces to place the animals across the country.

The sanctuary was chosen to help because of its experience. McCormick says it has performed thousands of emergency operations, including island-based rescues — a handy skill for moving animals out of Puerto Rico, the publication said.

The sanctuary’s executive director, Pat Craig, has also worked with the federal government on cases in the past and is well connected with other sanctuary operators, Axios said.

Craig was previously tasked with rescuing animals from Netflix “Tiger King” Joe Exotic’s park in Oklahoma, Axios reported.

The animals brought from Puerto Rico will be housed in Keenesburg and at the sanctuary’s newer private property in southern Colorado, just under 10,000 acres. McCormick said the animals should start arriving in May.

The sanctuary’s need for donations will grow once the animals arrive, the publication said.

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