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Furore over future of ‘rented’ tiger

August 13, 2012

Animal rights activists are up in arms to prevent Guadalajara authorities from returning a tiger to a former owner who used to rent him to an amusement park.

Albert, a six-month old Bengal tiger has been held at a dog pound in Guadalajara’s Animal Control Center since being seized by the Jalisco branch of the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (PROFEPA) in May. Animal rights groups say Albert suffered neglection and malnourishment, and have called for him to be taken to a sanctuary in Colorado.

Armando Basulto had been renting Albert to Guadalajara’s Rehilete Alcalde amusement park, having bought him from a bankrupt zoo in Nuevo Vallarta. During a routine inspection PROFEPA confiscated the tiger, whom they suspected was being kept illegally in improper facilities, along with several ducks, sheep, a crocodile, a red-tailed hawk and four turtles.

Upon discovery, endangered species are normally sent to the Center for Research and Conservation of Wildlife (CIVS). However, the Jalisco CIVS has no room for a tiger, so the city council offered to take care of Albert until his future was resolved. Albert is currently living in a caged enclosure fitted with a wooden desk, a tire swing and a small pool of water.

The tiger could now be returned to Basulto, who claims legal ownership, because investigations have shown it is of legitimate Mexican origin. Authorities have verified that Alberta was not smuggled into Mexico; he was born in captivity in Nayarit, where he was tagged with a microchip implant.

PROFEPA says Basulto “must submit a detailed report” proving he can “meet health and safety requirements” in terms of housing and transport for the animal. Basulto has two weeks to collect Albert or he will be considered abandoned and relocated.

PROFEPA’s decision to return the tiger has outraged animal rights activists, who responded with an online petition demanding “Life in a sanctuary for Albert.”

“We propose that the tiger is delivered to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado, which is already familiar with the case of Albert and willing to receive him,” reads the petition.

Established in 1980, the 300-acre, nonprofit sanctuary specializes in caring for large carnivores that were born in captivity but looked after inadequately. With spacious enclosures and a specialist veterinary hospital, the sanctuary houses more than 290 animals, including lions, tigers, leopards, cougars, bears and wolves.

By Wednesday morning the petition had been signed by over 6,200 people. “Every living thing deserves freedom and a decent life … animals have feelings too,” wrote Yesenia Barron.

“A sanctuary is the best option for animals in Albert’s situation, with people prepared to  serve them, respect them and fight to rehabilitate them,” said Sarahi Padilla.

To sign the petition visit www.change.org/es/peticiones/vida-para-albert-en-un-santuario.

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