The Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) confirmed on Monday the permanent closure of the Juan A. Rivero Zoo, located in the municipality of Mayagüez, in the west of the island. It is the only zoo that currently exists in Puerto Rico.
Through a press release, Anaís Rodríguez, DNER secretary, reported that the closure was agreed “after five years without receiving the public attention after the devastation caused by Hurricane María.”
In 2017, the zoo closed due to the fact that part of its structures were destroyed by the passage of the cyclone. Since then, some animals still remained in the place and were cared for by DNER personnel.
“The 300 animals that live in the zoo will be evaluated by specialists and veterinarians; those who receive the go-ahead to be moved to sanctuaries will be sent to those locations, for those who do not, the DNER develops a plan to guarantee their best well-being,” the department said in the press release.
Since 2017, different groups that defend the rights of animals have carried out demonstrations and asked the Government to close the zoo. During that time, several animal deaths had been reported at the facility. The DNER has reported that the reported animal deaths were from natural causes. 60% of the zoo’s population is geriatric.
The Puerto Rico Animal Protection Federation (FEPA) issued statements supporting the permanent closure of the Juan A. Rivero de Mayagüez Zoo.
“FEPA had been in conversations for several months with the DNER secretary and several sanctuaries in the United States about the transfer of species. Today (Monday) it was formally announced that the closure of the zoo will be permanent and there will no longer be animal exhibits in said space. With this step, Puerto Rico is moving in the right direction for the welfare and protection of our animals,” said Yolanda Álvarez, president of the organization.
The DNER explained that it is planned to convert the area currently occupied by the zoo “into an open space for the enjoyment and recreation of Puerto Rican families and visitors.”