Public-private partnership proposed for Mayagüez zoo
By The Star Staff
The Save the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo Foundation seeks to ensure short- and long-term development of the zoo in Mayagüez through a public-private partnership (P3) under the National Parks Program and the island Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), foundation president Lynette Matos said Tuesday.
A P3 would allow the Mayagüez zoo to: receive more income, labor, specialized veterinary medical care by species, continuing education for the work team, medical equipment and acquisition of controlled drugs for animals according to medical orders, Matos noted. It would also allow for evaluating the transfer or exchange of animals with other zoos or sanctuaries globally, and an additional amount of labor would be provided at no cost to the Puerto Rico government, she said.
“Therefore, we intend to have a relevant role for the development of the zoo and we know that in that sense private enterprise, civil society and municipalities have to find new ways to guarantee proper functioning in the present and future,” Matos said. “Public-private partnerships allow us to advance in the development of projects and the provision of services in a more efficient, balanced and less expensive way, We have the team willing to help, with the capacity, knowledge and experience necessary with respect to zoos, wild and exotic animals, animal welfare and veterinary medical care.”
The proposed P3 would include the creation of a steering committee with staff from the Save the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo Foundation, the Municipality of Mayagüez and the community along with the National Parks Superintendency and the DNER, maintaining at the same time the support of the academic and civic sector that characterizes the organization.
The steering committee would also be responsible for assigning independent auditors who will ensure the control and monitoring of work, income and investments, guaranteeing the fulfillment of the contracts and the assigned funds, in order to guarantee the best quality at the lowest possible cost.
“To achieve those goals, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society and the citizen,” Matos said. “A vision for the future would be established between all parties, with specific actions adjustable to the times we live in in the face of climate change. The Alliance would provide a portal with real-time information on the status of each animal, their condition and treatments, and the public would have 24-hour access to knowing how they are.”
Immediate entry would be guaranteed for animals confiscated by the DNER, which would receive veterinary medical attention plus habitat and the appropriate diet for each species, with the aim of achieving a positive impact for the island’s natural resources and environmental protection.
“The proposal arises as the result of a process we have carried out that includes feasibility studies, sustainable development, marketing, tourism, and the creation of a specific plan for parks and zoological forests, among other important details,” Matos said. “All this has been done with the help and collaboration of veterinarians, animal welfare inspectors, zoologists, biologists and businessmen who have come together to propose this alternative to the Government of Puerto Rico, in order to ensure the future of the zoo and the welfare of its animals, also with the aim of facing the historical deterioration of the zoo, optimizing its structural condition and modernizing it according to the requirements of regulatory agencies such as the federal Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).”
Currently, the Save the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo Foundation is reiterating its commitment to the zoo’s bear exhibit.
“We have always been saying ‘present’ for the zoo of Puerto Rico, whether providing food for the animals when an order is delayed, medicines, equipment, tools, or improvements to their habitats among other needs,” Matos said. “If the DNER needs help improving the bear enclosure, we are in the best position to collaborate with the department to improve this and other areas. … The most important thing is that the animals are kept well under human care; that is always paramount.”