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A Colorado sanctuary steps in to help animals after zoo closure in Puerto Rico

  A rhinoceros rests inside an enclosure at the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. It is surrounded by greenery and large rocks but is laying on the ground. You can see it's ribs.
Danica Coto/AP
/
AP
A rhinoceros rests inside an enclosure at the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, July 7, 2017. The government announced on Monday, Feb. 28, 2023 that it is closing the U.S. territory’s only zoo, which has remained closed since hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the island in Sept. 2017, as federal authorities investigate allegations of mistreatment of animals.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo. will relocate over 300 animals from the now closed Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The zoo had been under a great deal of criticism regarding the welfare of its animals and had suffered several financial blows before Hurricane Maria finally forced the zoo to close for good in 2017. That leaves the future for these animals uncertain. With the exception of a few birds, the rest of the animals must be relocated off the island.

Pat Craig, the executive director and founder of The Wild Animal Sanctuary, said the animals range in size from tarantulas to a lone elephant and while his sanctuary isn't a good fit for every critter, they can find a home for them elsewhere. They're coordinating with other sanctuaries to find homes for different species. His sanctuary is for carnivores, and they'll be taking about half of the animals, with some going to Colorado and others to a sister facility in Texas.

"We do a lot of rescues, both here in the country and abroad," said Craig. "We've gone to many other countries to rescue animals in large numbers."

The sanctuary will start taking in new animals in the next few weeks. The Wild Animal Sanctuary has managed a few large projects before. They resettled nearly 150 large cats owned by private zoos featured in Netflix’s “Tiger King.”