Lions, tigers and bears from a defunct zoo in Argentina are settling in at Colorado’s Wild Animal Sanctuary.
The five big cats and two bears were the last remaining animals to leave the Zoo de Colón after it closed its doors in 2013 following world-wide protests over inhumane care and squalid conditions at the facility. The rescues join the more than 400 animals the Wild Animal Sanctuary cares for at its facility in Keenesburg — about 30 miles northeast of Denver.
Sanctuary staff first visited the zoo in 2014 to find out if the two African lions, three Bengal tigers, and two grizzly bears were in good enough shape to make the 6,400 mile trip from South America to Colorado. The animals needed time to gain weight and receive medical attention, the sanctuary said in a release.
In January, all seven animals were ready to make the trip, and on Feb. 11, the relocation process began.
“Once the animals were crated and transported to Buenos Aires, both the animals and human caretakers flew to Miami where they connected with one of the Sanctuary’s ground transportation teams,” the sanctuary said in a release.
“Within 28 hours the animals arrived at their final destination in Keenesburg. Animal care staff at the sanctuary had spent the previous week preparing special accommodations for the Argentinian refugees and immediately released the cats and bears into their new homes.”
All seven animals made it to Colorado without incident, but some had lingering medical issues. The male bear was virtually blind due to an advanced case of cataracts, while his female partner suffered from severe dental problems.
“Now that both bears are under the care of the Sanctuary’s highly-experienced doctors, both issues will be corrected,” the sanctuary said.
About 40 to 60 animals are sent to Keenesburg each year. The nonprofit has a roughly $13 million budget and gets the majority of its funding from donations.
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