Police tow away big cats and other animals after a raid on a sanctuary

MEXICO CITY — Authorities on Wednesday began hauling away 177 lions, tigers, jaguars and other exotic big cats found at an animal rescue center in the mountains on the south side of Mexico City.

A total of 202 animals, including monkeys, dogs, donkeys and coyotes, were taken to other places, probably zoos or animal sanctuaries, said the Federal Prosecutor for Environmental Protection.

Dozens of heavily armed city police officers raided the Black Jaguar White Tiger shelter on Tuesday after images of razor-thin, distressed and injured lions circulated on social media.

The reserve’s founder told local media that he had rescued some of the animals and that some of them had arrived in poor condition.

Mexico City Police Chief Omar Garcia Harfuch said the property was seized “for the crime of misappropriation of property and animal abuse.”

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that “according to the inspection, the property on which the animals were kept is designated for agricultural or grazing purposes, not for keeping the species found.”

Under Mexican law, individuals can register to keep exotic cats and other animals in supervised wildlife management units. The facility searched on Tuesday appears to have submitted such documents.

But animal rights advocacy PETA called the site a “fake sanctuary” and said it had complained for years that the facility was involved in abusive practices.

Peta said the lions, tigers and jaguars were kept in relatively small fenced-in pens, sometimes with more than one animal per enclosure, and were also forced to interact with people for “selfies” or videos.

The Association of Zoos, Breeders and Aquariums of Mexico said its members are volunteering to care for the animals.

But members of the Mexican drug cartel illegally keeping big cats and the 2015 ban on pet shops in circuses have both contributed to the saturation of animal shelters and rescue facilities.

“Several of our facilities are already saturated with wild animals from various rescues, from circuses to hundreds of confiscations from illegal trade,” said Ernesto Zazueta, head of the zoo association, in a statement. “But we cannot allow these animals, many of which are critically endangered, to continue in these deplorable conditions of health and malnutrition.”

Exotic animals have long fascinated Mexican narcos.

One week in June, a spider monkey dressed as a drug gang mascot was found shot dead after a shootout, a 450-pound (200-kilogram) tiger was found wandering the streets of the Pacific coastal state of Nayarit, and a man died from being abused while attempting to rescue a captive tiger in a cartel-dominated area in the western state of Michoacan.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/police-haul-off-big-cats-other-animals-after-sanctuary-raid/2022/07/06/41ba7ffe-fd76-11ec-b39d-71309168014b_story.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_world Police tow away big cats and other animals after a raid on a sanctuary

Dustin Huang

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