Zoo Closing After 140 Years to Give Its Animals a Better Life

'Captivity is degrading'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2016 2:24 PM CDT
Zoo Closing After 140 Years to Give Its Animals a Better Life
Sandra the orangutan in her enclosure at the Buenos Aires zoo. The zoo will be closing after 140 years, but Sandra won't be joining the other animals at sanctuaries.   (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

The Buenos Aires zoo, one of the city's major tourist attractions, will be shutting down after 140 years to give its animal residents a shot at a better life, the Guardian reports. According to the BBC, the zoo had come under fire in recent years over the condition of its animals and infrastructure. Of particular concern was the suffering of the zoo's polar bears during Buenos Aires' sweltering summers. The zoo's last remaining polar bear, Winner, died in part because of hot temperatures and poor conditions. And while the zoo was originally built on the edge of Buenos Aires, the city had grown around it, putting animals in close proximity to buildings and busy streets, the AP reports.

“This situation of captivity is degrading for the animals, it’s not the way to take care of them,” Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta said during a ceremony Thursday, per the Guardian. Most of the zoo's animals—sources have them numbering between 1,500 and 2,500—will be moved to animal sanctuaries in Argentina and elsewhere. About 50 animals too old or sick to move will stay behind, though not on public display. Among those animals is Sandra the orangutan, who made news two years ago when a court gave her rights as a "non-human person." The 44-acre zoo will be transformed into an ecological park that will promote conservation and rehabilitate animals rescued from illegal trafficking. (More zoo stories.)

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