Mexican authorities have shut down the wild animal sanctuary Black Jaguar White Tiger in Mexico City on Tuesday after accusations by former employees and activists of animal cruelty.
In footage released by environmental activist and producer Arturo Islas Allende, the big cats are seen living in horrible conditions. The animals struggle to stand, are emaciated, and some have eaten their own tails.
Former employees and activists said that tigers and lions were put down if they were too big for their cages and often died due to lack of food, water, and veterinary care.
“It’s a holocaust. It’s a place that has abused their animals,” Allende said in the video he shared on Instagram. The video has been watched over 4 million times and sparked a public outcry.
Allende met Yael Ruiz, who worked with the foundation for two years. After seeing footage she made while working at Black Jaguar White Tiger, Allende couldn’t believe the sanctuary was still open.
He visited the sanctuary himself and collected evidence. But after filing a complaint at Mexican authorities, he was shocked nothing happened. So he posted a plea for help on social media on Monday.
“They are animals in danger of extinction, and we still have time to save an average of 100 animals,” he said. “Many animals are so skinny that their metabolism is paralyzed, and they require urgent medical attention.”
Authorities on Tuesday decided to close the sanctuary. The Association of Zoos, Breeders and Aquariums in Mexico (AZCARM) filed a complaint with the Attorney General and a lawsuit against the owner, businessman Eduardo Serio.
AZCARM said the sanctuary was no longer licensed or registered after the animals were moved from the original approved habitat to a smaller, unsuitable space.
“We want to have this place closed down. It’s operating underground, illegally sheltering lions, tigers, jaguars, pumas and monkeys. Plus, animals are abused,” the presdident of AZCARM, Ernesto Zazuata, said.
“(The sanctuary) has always tried to find aid, but the politics of the day has not allowed us to secure enough resources. This is a civil association, and it’s funded by people (donations) to shelter animals,” Salvador Padilla, legal representative for Black Jaguar White Tiger, said.
“This is not a zoo – let me be clear on that. People didn’t come to visit animals but to assist. Many animals come after being seized and from other complicated situations, and they come already injured or somehow harmed,” he added.
Mexican authorities will complete an investigation at the sanctuary and determine the medical needs of the animals. They will then find them new homes in zoos in Mexico City.