Buenos Aires to close 140-year-old zoo, move 2,500 animals to nature reserves

We are a curious species; smart, but so shortsighted when it comes to regarding nature and the other species we share this planet with. It can easily drive one to despair. But there are bright spots, monumental actions that inspire hope instead of depression. Movement that feels like we're going forward rather than backwards. Case in point, the 140-year old Buenos Aires Zoo ... which has announced plans to liberate its occupants.

Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said that the zoo’s 2,500 animals will be moved to nature reserves in Argentina to live out their lives in suitable environments.

“This situation of captivity is degrading for the animals, it’s not the way to take care of them,” says Rodríguez.

The 44-acre zoo will be turned into an ecopark and will be reopened later in the year; around 50 of the older and/or infirm animals will stay and be cared for, but they will no longer be on display. The new ecopark will also provide refuge and rehabilitation for animals saved from illegal trafficking.

“What we have to value is the animals. The way they live here is definitely not the way to do that,” says the mayor.

Although the zoo was the city’s most popular tourist attraction, it has received its share of bad press – most notably for its display of polar bears in a city known for scorching summers. The zoo’s last polar bear, ironically named Winner, died several years ago partly due to skyrocketing temperatures and poor living conditions. The zoo also made headlines when one of their orangutans, Sandra (pictured above), was given rights when she was declared a “non-human person" by a Buenos Aires court.

“The most important thing is breaking with the model of captivity and exhibition,” says animal rights lawyer Gerardo Biglia, a tireless campaigner for the zoo's closure. “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.”

Now if only the rest of the grown-ups could figure that out as well. But in the meantime we have progress, and there will soon be 2,500 previously-captive animals enjoying the freedom to roam as they wish and living away from the gaze of us strange human gawkers. There may be hope for us yet.

Via The Guardian

Tags: Animal Rights | Animals | Animal Welfare | Argentina

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