The Dr Juan A. Rivero Zoo in the western coastal town of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, is closing for good following years of negligence, a lack of resources and deaths of animals. The 45-acre zoo, the only one in the US territory of Puerto Rico, has been closed to the public since September 2017, but on 27th February 2023, Puerto Rico’s government announced its permanent closure.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado may take some of the animals, but it is believed not all of the animals in the zoo have been found a place to be relocated to. In February 2018, the US Department of Agriculture cancelled the zoo’s exhibitor’s license after citing dozens of violations in previous years, including a cougar living in a cramped space and a tiger that had to be euthanized. Concerns had already been raised about two pumas that died, a limping rhino, an underweight chimpanzee, and the lack of physical tests and shelter for some animals. In 2018, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and local organizations accused Puerto Rico’s government of violating the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act at that zoo — which held more than 300 species the previous year.
Anaís Rodríguez, Secretary of Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources, said, “We have not skimped on the search for alternatives so that…the best possible care and safety of all the species that inhabit there are guaranteed.” Christian Ríos, president of an animal rights commission at Puerto Rico’s Association of Attorneys, said, “We are not letting our guard down…We are sorry that all these complaints have taken a long time to be heard.”