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Friday, 17 August, 2001, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
Animals starve in Brazil horror zoo
A jaguar was amongst the dead animals
Environmental officials in Brazil have closed down a private zoo after finding the carcasses of more than 100 animals which had starved to death.

The carcasses, which included many rare and endangered species, were found at in a freezer at Bwana Park, near Rio de Janeiro.

We've never seen anything like this. Over 100 dead animals of different species

Environmental officer Carlos Mendes
The BBC's Brazil correspondent says local television has been broadcasting horrific images of the animals.

Bwana Park's surviving animals, which appeared to be severely malnourished, have been taken into care.

The former owners of the zoo, which has just been sold, face charges of animal abuse and could be given a hefty fine and a prison term.

The zoo appears to have got into serious financial trouble after the death of its founder earlier this year.

Sex club

There have been reports that an application was made soon after to turn it into a sex club, which was turned down.

The carcasses account for 76% of the zoo's animals

The dead animals found include several species of endangered parrots, an African lynx, a jaguar, monkeys and a rare alligator.

The dead animals represented about three-quarters of the zoo's total collection.

"We've never seen anything like this. Occasionally you have a spate of dead animals because of disease or bad food, but never over 100 dead animals of different species," said Carlos Henrique Abreu Mendes of Brazil's Environmental Protection Agency, known as Ibama.

Illegal trafficking

According to Ibama's preliminary investigations most of the animals had died in the past two months.

The former owner, as well as the vet attending the zoo, now face charges for killing and abusing animals - a crime which carries a $21,000 fine and a maximum one-year jail sentence.

Environmental officials also say they believe the zoo may have been involved in trafficking wild animals, which is a large and lucrative illegal business across Latin America.

The zoo has just been sold to new owners who say it will remain closed for at least two months while the surviving animals recover and new animals are acquired.

See also:

16 Jul 01 | Media reports
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Growing threat to rare species
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