Caged animals stuck at customs

2012-08-25 11:44
A tiger sits in a cage in Puerto Falcon, Paraguay, on the border with Argentina. (Jorge Saenz, AP)

A tiger sits in a cage in Puerto Falcon, Paraguay, on the border with Argentina. (Jorge Saenz, AP)

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Asuncion - Imagine being stuck in a cage for two months while going through customs. That's the border limbo 16 tigers and lions have faced in Paraguay because Argentine officials refuse to approve their paperwork for re-entry.

The nine Bengal tigers and seven African lions belong to an Argentine circus that performs in the Paraguayan capital each August.

Their owner, Oswal Wasconi, brought them back for this year's circus only to learn that a new law in Paraguay bans live animal acts at circuses.

With no chance of performing, Wasconi tried to ship his big cats back to Argentina. But then they got stuck at the border.

Estela Gomez, director of Paraguay's wildlife agency, said the animals all have good-health certificates, but their entry to Argentina was blocked by officials demanding more information about the protected species.

Aides to Argentina's quarantine office director, Raul Castelli, said he was in a meeting and could not explain the holdup.

After inquiries from The Associated Press on Friday about the cats' plight, Gomez said her ministry decided to move the big cats two by two to the Asuncion zoo, "so that they can live in some comfort and not in a strange area".

Furthermore, she said that "Wasconi has promised to provide them with food and liquid because these animals are physically quite large".

"In the next few days we will continue investigating the true reasons why the Argentine authorities aren't authorising their return," she said. "I can't anticipate whether these beasts will remain forever in Paraguay or eventually go to Argentina."

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