The San Juan Daily Star
Governor: Decision to turn Mayagüez zoo into a sanctuary ‘was made quite some time ago’
The Dr. Juan Rivero Zoo in Mayagüez generates its own funds primarily through entry fees, but those revenues were severely impacted by its closure due to damages caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017
By THE STAR STAFF
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Thursday that the Dr. Juan Rivero Zoo in Mayagüez will be turned into an animal sanctuary.
“And if anything, it could be a research and observation center and not a zoo,” the governor said at a press conference. “This [decision] was made quite some time ago. What I have asked the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources is to accelerate this change and to finish materializing the transition and to keep the people informed of its progress.”
“What we want is to ensure the well being of the animals that are there -- some may have to be transferred -- but, above all, that they have good veterinary care,” Pierluisi said. “We do not rule out that the public can observe them, but not under the structure of a zoo, but rather, in the natural state in which they are found and that can be done. So the change to [the zoo] becoming a sanctuary is on track. I already authorized that a long time ago.”
The governor’s statements were made amid news that a black bear named Nina died at the zoo due to supposed health complications.
The zoo generates its own funds primarily through entry fees, but those revenues were severely impacted by its closure due to damages caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The then-secretary of Natural and Environmental Resources, Rafael Machargo Maldonado, at the time announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had approved $6.2 million for repairs, but the use of the funds remains unknown.
In 2020, the zoo had 280 animals of different species, including: an elephant; hippopotamuses; lions; a rhinoceros; camels; chimpanzees; Madagascar lemurs; pumas; sloths; alligators; snakes; an ocelot; a coati; an Australian kangaroo; reptiles, such as the tegu; and birds such as the North American bald eagle, the Puerto Rican parrot, and several owl breeds.
Federal inspections in 2018 found animals euthanized inhumanely or for unclear reasons, inadequate veterinary care and a string of other problems at the zoo. Animal rights activists have been demanding its closure.
A pair of legislators from the Citizen Victory Movement, Sen. Rafael Bernabe Riefkohl and Rep. Mariana Nogales Molinelli, issued a press release on Thursday regarding a press conference slated for Friday to announce the filing of legislation in the island Senate, Senate Bill 1041, to close the zoo permanently and transfer its animals to sanctuaries.