Two zookeepers have been arrested for animal mistreatment and 15 giraffes have been seized by the authorities after three escaped from a filthy facility and died mysteriously during the night.
The three giraffes died after escaping from a cramped quarantine centre where they were forced to live among their own faeces after arriving in Brazil from South Africa.
Animal rights groups criticised the giraffes’ deaths, claiming they were being kept in a small facility that was unsuitable for such animals.
According to the news site G1, 18 giraffes were flown into Brazil from South Africa with the intention of eventually housing them in the BioPark of Rio, which currently does not have any giraffes on show, in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro.
During their adaptation period, the giraffes were being kept in quarantine at the Portobello Resort & Safari in the remote municipality of Mangaratiba in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
The animals had been at the safari resort for two months when a group of six tried to escape while enjoying some time in the fresh air.
The rogue giraffes broke down a wooden fence and ran off. They were eventually rounded up and returned to the facility.
However, during the night, half of the escaped giraffes died in mysterious circumstances and the case is still being investigated.
The manager of BioPark of Rio said the three deceased giraffes were not injured during the recapture.
A BioPark biologist said it was possible a “surge in physical activity” caused them to develop diseases “related to skeletal muscle tissue” that led to their deaths, adding that it was probably not related to the escape.
Experts have carried out tests and sent a report to the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA) for review.
The State Institute for the Environment (INEA) said it had inspected the space before the giraffes arrived and found that everything was in order.
However, environmentalist Marcio Antonio Augelli claimed that the giraffes were being kept in damp, cramped sheds with cement floors.
He added that the facility was unsuitable for quarantining such animals and that they spent much of the day without sunlight and living among their own faeces.
Augelli said he had reported the issue to IBAMA, but was ignored.
INEA has confirmed the giraffes’ deaths and said it will investigate possible irregularities by the company that imported the animals from South Africa.
Local reports on 26th January said the police have since seized the 15 remaining giraffes at the centre and arrested two workers for mistreatment.
The detainees, both male, were released pending the investigation. Representatives of Grupo Cataratas, owners of the BioPark, also gave statements at the police station.
On Wednesday, officers checked the conditions in which the giraffes were kept and found a lot of dirt accumulated on the floor of the stalls and even injuries to the animals.
As a result, the authorities are also investigating the possible mistreatment of the surviving 15 giraffes and whether their importation followed Brazilian and international standards.
In a statement, the BioPark insisted there was no mistreatment of the animals and that the complaints are unfounded.
It added that it provided everything asked of it by the competent bodies, and the import process was duly approved by the Brazilian and South African governments.
The investigation is ongoing.
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