MEXICO CITY, July 9 (UPI) -- Nearly 1,100 wild animals, including elephants, bears and tigers, will be relocated from circuses throughout Mexico to zoos and conservation centers after a ban on public wild animal exhibitions took effect on Wednesday.
Of the 1,091 total animals to be relocated, 87 will be exported and 69 will remain under the supervision of circuses, according to Mexico's Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA). The rest of the animals will be transported to 108 zoos and six conservation centers throughout the country.
In January, the Mexican government banned the circus use of wild animals in public shows under the General Wildlife Act, enforced with fines that can lead up to about $250,000 for circuses that break the law. The ban took effect on Wednesday.
Sunday was the last day animal shows took place nationwide, allowing time for circus owners to transport the animals.
PROFEPA asserted the law does not ban circuses having the animals, but prohibits the use of the animals as part of circus shows.
"Circuses can keep their animals as long as they are not presented in public performances," PROFEPA chief Guillermo Haro Bélchez said in a press conference, adding that circuses must keep animals in respectful conditions or face fines.
Circuses that decide to keep the animals must also present plans on what they are planning to do with them to the government and what conditions the creatures will live in.
So far, 55 circuses reported their annual animal inventory -- 21 of which said they no longer have wild animals.
The accumulated inventory adds up to about 511 wild animals, far lower than the inventory of 1,091 reported by 60 circuses in 2014.
About 20 of Mexico's 75 circuses failed to produce annual animal inventories by the Wednesday deadline and now face administrative fines.
There are 200 animals native to Mexico and 891 exotic animals that have been or will be relocated, classified as:
Invertebrates, 1. Reptiles, 4. Birds, 20. Primates, 250. Mammals, 391. Carnivores, 425.
Armando Cedeño, the leader of Mexico's National Union of Entrepreneurs and Circus Artists, said most animals were already sold, given as a loan or even given away as to avoid fines and confiscation. One white tiger that cost $25,000 was sold for $2,000, Cedeño said.
The animals were sold or given to private collectors or zoos.
"For us it's better that they have the animals that to return them to the government," Cedeño said.
"The authorities never complied with the creation of sanctuaries, that's the biggest lie there is. We seek our own alternatives to accommodate the animals because they have no shelters, sanctuaries, collection centers," Cedeño added. "What they did was pressure us to get rid of them ourselves."
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