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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawyer: DNER taking steps to reopen Mayagüez Zoo ‘at the right time’

A lawmaker has asked a House committee to refer the Save the Zoo Foundation and its president to the island Justice Department for allegedly selling animals on zoo grounds.

By The Star Staff

A Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) official and a lawyer could not specify on Monday when the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Mayagüez Zoo is slated to reopen.

“We are doing all the steps to open it at the right time,” attorney Hiram Zayas said at a public hearing.

“There is no date,” said Angelina Morales, a DNER special assistant to the secretary who is attached to the National Parks Program. She said DNER Secretary Rafael Machargo Maldonado wants to reopen the zoo at some point in 2022.

Popular Democratic Party Rep. Joselyn Rodríguez Negrón asked the House Natural Resources, Environmental Affairs and Recycling Committee to refer the Fundación Salvemos el Zoológico (Save the Zoo Foundation) and its president, Lynette Matos, to the Department of Justice for allegedly selling animals on zoo grounds.

“I am going to ask this honorable committee to make a referral to the Department of Justice of the Save the Zoo Foundation for the violation of Article 17 of Law 154 of 2018, the Law for Animal Welfare Protection,” the lawmaker said. “Meanwhile, I understand from everything that has been said here this morning that the Save the Zoo Foundation does not have a license to sell animals or request any donation in favor of the Puerto Rico Zoo.”

As a follow-up, New Progressive Party Rep. Gabriel Rodríguez Aguiló told Rodríguez Negrón that if she has enough evidence she should not wait for the committee but rather should go directly to the Justice Department to make the referral.

However, the committee granted 10 days for both the DNER and the Save the Zoo Foundation to present documents.

The zoo has not been reopened to the public since Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico in September 2017.

The statements were made during a public hearing held by the House committee chaired by Rep. Edgardo Feliciano Sánchez, on House Resolution 150, to carry out a comprehensive study of the current condition of natural resources and environmental issues, renewable energy sources and climate change, including all environmental impact legislation and regulations, action plans of government agencies, and for other purposes.

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