It's a big day for the captive animals of Buenos Aires: a scandal-ridden zoo based in the Palermo neighborhood of the capital will be closing its doors after 140 years of business.
The 44-acre establishment will be turned into a new eco park designed for species protection and rehabilitation. City officials also announced that the park will take in animals rescued from illegal trafficking.
The zoo has been heavily criticized over the years with regards to its animal treatment – especially when it comes to polar bears. Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, who ordered the zoo's closure, justified the move saying:
"This situation of captivity is degrading for the animals, it’s not the way to take care of them."
The new park, he hopes, will be "a place where children can learn how to take care of and relate with the different species."
A new life for 1,500 animals
As the Guardian explains, the majority of animals born in captivity will be gradually transferred to various nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries across Argentina. It has also been reported that some animals could be moved to areas similar to their natural habitats in Cambodia, India and Brazil.
Being unable to survive in the wild, complete freedom is no longer possible for these animals. However, their new homes in the heart of nature will allow them to live peacefully in a suitably adapted environment, far from the glaring gaze of us humans.
A programme has been launched to determine each animal's state of health and to analyse the risks of its return to the semi-wild. The first creatures expected to make a break for freedom are the zoo's birds, many of which will probably be headed to the estuary of Río de la Plata.
According to vets, only around 50 animals will probably be considered too old or fragile to be moved from the area; these will stay on site to be cared for at the new eco park. However, they won't be missing out entirely on all the excitement as their enclosures will be undergoing a personalised refurbishment.
Among those staying behind will be one of the zoo's most iconic characters, a 30-year-old female orangutan named Sandra. Back in 2014, Sandra was granted the basic rights of a "non-human person" by a Buenos Aires court. But unfortunately, as she is a hybrid, she is unable to socialise with others meaning she'll have to stay put.
Let's hope that zoos around the world take note of this commendable move.