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Circus Animals' Lives In Jeopardy

KEENESBURG, Colo., Nov. 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The future of 16 Lions and Tigers has become unclear with an ethical battle erupting between an American Wildlife Sanctuary and a Paraguayan NGO.  The exotic big cats are part of a traveling circus based out of Argentina, and have been stranded in Paraguay for nearly five months with Argentinian authorities refusing their re-entry.

The nine Bengal Tigers and seven African Lions belong to the Argentine circus that normally performs in the Paraguayan capital each August. Their owner, Oswal Wasconi, brought them back for a 2012 performance only to learn that a new law in Paraguay bans live animal acts at circuses.

With Argentina stating they were not going to allow the animals back into the country without obtaining more detailed information about their protected status as endangered species, the animals' future became unclear.  Paraguay's wildlife agency made the decision to move the 16 Lions and Tigers to the Asuncion Zoo in hopes they would be more comfortable and better cared for while a solution was found.

Immediately, calls and emails for help began pouring into the U.S. offices of The Wild Animal Sanctuary, a non-profit carnivore sanctuary located outside of Denver, Colorado.  The 720 acre (291 hectare) facility is the largest and oldest large carnivore sanctuary in the western hemisphere, and has successfully rescued more than 30 circus animals from Mexico and Central & South American countries in recent years.

After talking with Paraguayan wildlife officials, The Wild Animal Sanctuary began negotiations to save the animals and secure a permanent home for them at the Sanctuary. A relatively small NGO known as OIPIC located in Paraguay became the intermediary between the circus owner and the Sanctuary, and helped with initial negotiations.

In the beginning, the circus owner offered to sell his animals, but the Sanctuary made it clear they were only interested in saving the animals and giving them a permanent home where they could be free and live in large natural habitats - and not cages.  Circus owner, Oswal Wasconi, stated he had spent thousands of dollars in fines and caring for the animals, since they had become stranded in Paraguay, and requested compensation for his losses in order to relinquish the animals.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary agreed to pay for the feed and care of the animals while waiting to win their freedom, and also to cover the circus's costs associated with government fines and other welfare expenses. Communications between the parties involved established those expenses at $20,000.00

OIPIC president, Brigitte Fuzellier, reported success in the negotiations through her communication to the Sanctuary stating "Aqui estoy ahora con la duenha de los tigres que vino desde brasil para resolver el tema de los tigres ella est de acuerdo con migo. Si le pagamos la proxima semana la sena de 20 mil ella firma la carta de compromiso con nosotros."

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