A San Diego big cat sanctuary is calling for more than 200 lions, tigers, jaguars and other exotic animals seized from a so-called rescue center in Mexico City to be transported to the United States for treatment.
Mexican authorities have seized 177 exotic big cats from the “Black Jaguar White Tiger” animal sanctuary in the mountains on the south side of Mexico City. Monkeys, dogs, donkeys and coyotes were also taken to other locations for a total of 202 animals seized, the attorney general’s office for environmental protection said.
Bobbi Brink, San Diego Area Lions, Tigers and Bears Sanctuary Director — a salvage facility accredited by the American Sanctuary Association which handles about 60 exotic animal rescues – said there were no accredited facilities in Mexico that could handle the task of caring for dozens of big cats. Instead, she urges the Mexican government to coordinate with rescue centers in the United States to transport and facilitate their care.
Meanwhile, the sanctuary is raising funds to provide medical and other care supplies for teams to use when treating animals in Mexico.
“We are doing what we can in the short term, but the long term goal is to help these animals be transferred to proper, accredited sanctuaries so that they can live their lives safely and with dignity,” said Brink in a written statement.
Mexico’s attorney general’s office for environmental protection said their agency would do everything possible to bring wildlife to verified care centers, but it was unclear if they were considering using sanctuaries. in the USA.
The Association of Zoos, Breeders and Aquariums of Mexico said its members would volunteer to take care of the animals and a handful of lions and primates were taken on the day of the seizure to Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City.
Ernesto Zazueta, head of the zoo association, said some of the monkeys and three lions would be taken to Mexico City and plans were to send 50 of the animals on Thursday to zoos west of the capital and the Northern states of Gunajuato and Sinaloa.
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“Several of our facilities are already saturated with wild animals from various rescues, ranging from circuses to hundreds of illegal animal trafficking seizures,” Zazueta said in a statement. “But we cannot allow these animals, many of which are endangered, to continue in these deplorable health and malnutrition conditions.”
The animals were in “a horrible situation”, he said. “Some of their tails are missing, they had been eaten. Others lack an eye, an ear. They are very, very thin, dehydrated.
Dozens of heavily armed city police raided Black Jaguar White Tiger facilities after images of thin, distressed and injured lions circulated on social media.
Mexico City Police Chief Omar Garcia Harfuch said the property was seized “for the crime of misuse of property and mistreatment of animals.”
The reserve’s founder told local media that he rescued some of the animals and that some of them arrived in poor condition. The founder also said donations to the reserve have plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic.
City police said in a statement that “according to the inspection, the property where the animals were kept is zoned for agricultural or grazing purposes, and not to keep the type of species found.”
Under Mexican law, individuals can register to keep exotic cats and other animals in supervised wildlife management units. The establishment searched on Tuesday seems to have filed such documents.
But animal rights group PETA called the site a “fake sanctuary”, saying it had complained for years that the facility engaged in abusive practices, such as keeping animals in relatively small enclosures, sometimes with more than one animal per enclosure, and forcing animals to interact with humans for “selfies” or videos.
Brink of Lions, Tigers and Bears agreed, stating that “facilities that allow full contact with big cats must constantly breed in order to have a supply of cubs for photo ops. Installations like this have only the best interests of the owner in mind… when it is the animals that suffer, as we have seen with Black Jaguar-White Tiger.
Drug cartel members illegally possessing big cats and Mexico’s 2015 ban on animal acts in circuses have both contributed to the saturation of animal shelters and rescue facilities.
Mexican narcos have long been fascinated by exotic animals.
In a week in June, a spider monkey dressed as the mascot of a drug gang was found shot dead after a shooting, a 450-pound (200-kilogram) tiger roamed the streets of coastal Nayarit state peaceful, and a man died of being maimed when he attempted to pet a captive tiger in a cartel-dominated area in western Michoacan state.