A major city is closing a zoo after a series of unfortunate incidents have spawned more scrutiny towards these types of living environments for animals.
The Buenos Aires Zoo in Argentina will be closing, the mayor announced last Thursday. According to CBS News, the zoo will be turned into an ecological park.
Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta revealed that the zoo will work on relocating most of its 1,500 animals to sanctuaries in the country and abroad because they aren’t living in acceptable conditions.
Larreta explained that Argentina is joining the global trend of turning zoos into parks and animal sanctuaries. He believes animals should thrive in their own habitat and not be exposed to buildings and noise. The mayor says the zoo is closing because it’s “degrading” to the animals.
— PETA (@peta) June 25, 2016
“This situation of captivity is degrading for the animals, it’s not the way to take care of them,” Larreta said. “What we have to value is the animals. The way they live here is definitely not the way to do that.”
The Buenos Aires mayor added that the new eco-park will be “a place where children can learn how to take care of and relate with the different species.”
The Buenos Aires zoo has been in existence since 1875 and was on once the outskirts of the Argentine capital. Now the zoo is in the bustling Palermo neighborhood, which is not ideal for wildlife.
This is the same zoo that attracted very negative attention for keeping polar bears in captivity under oppressive heat conditions during the summer, BBC News reports. In fact, a young polar bear named Winner died at the age of 3-and-a-half a few years ago.
The zoo plans to close soon. There are 50 animals that will remain because they’re deemed too fragile to move. One of those animals is Sandra, an Orangutan that was in headlines two years ago after a Buenos Aires court declared her status as a “non-human with rights” following concerns by animal rights activists about her health and living conditions.
Animal rights attorney Gerardo Biglia has been a longtime advocate for the zoo’s closure. The Guardian reports he issued a statement to the press that touched on the fact children are more aware of the needs of animals, and sometimes zoos aren’t the best place for them.
“The most important thing is breaking with the model of captivity and exhibition,” Biglia said. “I think there is a change coming for which we are already prepared because kids nowadays consider it obvious that it’s wrong for animals to be caged.”
Plans have already begun to move the animals since the zoo is closing. Some of the facility’s bird species will be released in the Reserva Ecológica, a riverside ecological reserve covering 864 acres in Buenos Aires.
City officials said the new eco park will also provide refuge and rehabilitation for animals rescued from illegal trafficking.
In the United States, there’s been debate among animal rights activists about the welfare of residents at zoos following the death of Harambe the gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo. In late May, he was shot and killed after a 3-year-old boy got into his enclosure. Staff had to make a quick decision after the 17-year-old western lowland gorilla was seen at times dragging the child through the water.
— JaneGoodallInstitute (@JaneGoodallInst) June 21, 2016
Famous gorilla expert Jane Goodall said in a recent interview that as long as zoos uphold high standards of living conditions for animals, they’re a good thing. In some cases, zoos are a safer place for endangered animals that are declining in numbers due to diminishing habitat and illegal hunting. Additionally, if the zoo is sufficient and provides natural enrichment for the animals, Goodall says it’s beneficial for children to see these creatures up close to learn more about them.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Buenos Aires Zoo closing will encourage other cities with inadequate facilities to do the same thing for their animals.
[Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images]