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Thirteen abused animals rescued from informal zoo in Peru

A spectacled bear is seen in transit after Projects Abroad and Animal Defenders International conduct a rescue operation to free animals from an informal zoo in Sandia, Peru.During the early hours of December 8th 2015, the Projects Abroad Peru Conservation team, along with government officials, police and Animal Defenders International (ADI), raided an informal zoo in Sandia, a mountainous region of Peru, and successfully rescued 13 animals from atrocious conditions. This rescue was the culmination of months of preparation, made even more challenging as previous attempts to remove the animals had been unsuccessful.

At 3am, the team cautiously entered the “zoo” and, with the help of the team’s vet, they darted an Andean fox, due to fear that the animal’s pacing and barking would cause stress to the remaining animals during the rescue. With little time to spare, the team quickly collected two Andean condors and placed them in their transfer crates. They also rescued four blue-headed parrots, one kinkajou, and two yellow-footed tortoises. However, the team struggled with the final two animals.

Projects Abroad and Animal Defenders International staff work together to transfer a spectacled bear to its new home at Taricaya Ecological Reserve in the Peruvian jungle.Lucho and Sabina are spectacled bears that are, respectively, 130kg and 70kg of claws, teeth, and muscle. After spending a combined 15 years in captivity, being harassed and prodded on a daily basis, they were both understandably wary of humans. Their cages had no management area, which meant that cage cleaning may have involved a hosing through the netting and food being pushed through the mesh. While Sabina could be enticed with treats to persuade her to enter the transfer crate, Lucho was having none of it and after quick discussions, the team decided to dart the animal.

By 6am, all the animals were on the truck. A convoy of five vehicles began the long ascent up and over the Andes and back down to the rainforest on the other side towards the Projects Abroad facilities at Taricaya Ecological Reserve. En route, the team said farewell to the condors, as they were collected by a rescue centre in Cusco, as well as the Andean fox that was set free high on the Andean tundra.

Projects Abroad Conservation volunteers built 300m2 enclosures for the rescued spectacled bears, complete with big pools and shaded caves at Taricaya Ecological Reserve.After close to 48 hours without proper rest, the team’s stiffest challenge awaited – getting the remaining animals up the river bank to their new home. It was a fantastic effort from everybody and after several hours, the bears were released into their quarantine cages where they will spend 30 days acclimatizing and passing health checks. They have joined Cholita, our first rescued bear, and we look forward to following the progress of all three bears over the next few weeks.

The operation was a fantastic success and thanks go to Nubia Sanchez from SERFOR (the Peruvian government agency for wildlife), the police, and everybody who helped make the rescue operation a reality. At Taricaya, Projects Abroad has been building a reputation for saving animals and bringing them home and this was possibly the biggest operation yet. A special mention must go to the Projects Abroad Conservation volunteers who worked tirelessly in the construction of the huge enclosures. Each bear will have a spacious 300m2 complete with big pools and shaded caves, while they get used to the jungle habitat that they have not known since infants.

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