Puerto Rico recently witnessed an event that created ripples of emotions across the island. Mundi, the prized African elephant and the star attraction of the Puerto Rico Zoo for 35 years, was to be relocated to a vast elephant sanctuary in southern Georgia.
But when the time came, Mundi displayed an unexpected fear of the transport crate meant to carry her to her new home.
The founder of the Georgia refuge, Carol Buckley, dedicated a week to acclimatizing Mundi to the crate using her favorite treats. However, two days before the scheduled departure, Mundi became skittish, retreating from the crate to her familiar enclosure.
This setback, however, was just one among many in the challenging mission to move Mundi and hundreds of other animals from the deteriorating zoo. As Mundi symbolized a more prosperous past of Puerto Rico, her departure sparked a multitude of feelings: joy, sadness, anger, and even fierce resistance among the island’s inhabitants.
The emotional atmosphere surrounding Mundi’s transfer had taken a toll on her behavior. After a scare the previous evening believed to be caused by someone firing a pellet gun at her, Mundi started questioning everything about the crate, her ticket to a safer future.
The recent events around the zoo’s closure have elevated the existing tensions. Several protestors blocked the zoo gates, aiming to prevent the animals’ transfer, while some planned to create a ruckus to frighten Mundi. As the safety of the animals came under threat, federal agents were brought in to monitor the premises.
The US Justice Department had ordered the closure of the Puerto Rico Zoo due to its unfortunate decline that left many animals in poor living conditions. While many Puerto Ricans welcomed this change, others perceived it as a loss, further symbolizing the struggles the island has been enduring due to recent natural disasters and a debilitating debt crisis.
“Mundi became the symbol of a struggle,” said Raquel Quiñones, a long-time zoo volunteer. On the other hand, Raquel Braña, a renowned Animal rights activist, viewed the zoo’s closure as a momentous victory for Puerto Rico’s animal rights movement.
We must cherish these gentle giants and continue advocating for their welfare. Let’s stand together and Support Animal rights movements, ensuring that animals everywhere can enjoy a life of dignity and safety.
This article by Josie Fu was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 9 June 2023.
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