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Press Release

Justice Department Achieves Settlement with the Former Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo to Relocate Animals to Locations in the Continental United States

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico on behalf of the Puerto Rico Department of Justice and the Puerto Rico Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have reached an agreement to ensure the health and safety of the animals housed at the former Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo and the Centro de Detención en Cambalache (Cambalache). Under the agreement, the approximately 500 animals currently housed at the Zoo and Cambalache will be relocated within the next six months to facilities that are equipped and prepared to humanely and appropriately house and care for the animals.

The Justice Department recently arranged, with the assistance and coordination of DENR, for experts from the Wild Animal Sanctuary to complete an inventory and evaluation of the conditions of the animals at the Zoo and Cambalache. Based on the information gathered during these evaluations, the Wild Animal Sanctuary is developing a plan for the transfer of all of the animals housed at the Zoo and at Cambalache to sanctuaries and other appropriate facilities in the continental United States. The Wild Animal Sanctuary operates four wildlife sanctuaries in Colorado and Texas, encompassing more than 33,000 acres, and will aid in relocating the animals from the Zoo and Cambalache to these and other facilities, as necessary and appropriate, to immediately address their pressing health and safety needs.

As part of the joint efforts between federal and local agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has already removed a bald eagle, a golden eagle, two great horned owls, a red tail hawk, and two snakes. Additional transfers are expected in the upcoming weeks.

“We recognize the cooperation of Secretary Anais Rodríguez Vega who has made a laudable commitment to improve the health and welfare of the animals at the Zoo and Cambalache by working alongside federal agencies to relocate them to locations throughout the United States,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico. “We will continue to support the efforts to expeditiously rescue all the animals according to the recommendations for relocation to be made by the veterinary experts brought to Puerto Rico by the Wild Animal Sanctuary.” 

“We deeply appreciate the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in collaboration with Puerto Rico environmental and justice authorities to facilitate the transfer of these animals to a destination where their health and safety needs can be met,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.   

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Gottfried for the District of Puerto Rico and Senior Trial Attorney Mary Hollingsworth and Trial Attorneys Kamela Caschette, Briena Strippoli and Matthew Morris of the Environment and Natural Resources Division are handling this matter. The Justice Department worked closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and Investigative and Enforcement Services to achieve this successful resolution.

Updated February 16, 2024

Animal Welfare
Press Release Number: 23-255