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Troubled WAO entering talks with international wildlife group


Observing the meltdown down the road at Wild Animal Orphanage, Lynn Cuny, founder and director at Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, one of the few wildlife groups in the area still untainted by major scandal, was openly critical of WAO’s operations. “There have been problems there as long as I can remember,” she said. “They didn’t seem to be the genuine concern for the animals that was the chief motivation.” When the board voted two weeks ago to close shop and start looking for homes to relocate their several hundred animals, Cuny was one of the first brought in to consult. WRR will be taking in six female macaques from WAO to join an existing macaque troop in a one-acre enclosure.

The national scene is what concerns her.

“Legitimate sanctuaries around the country

all of those are pretty much at capacity. If legitimate sanctuaries can’t take these animals, then where are they going to go?” Cuny asked. “No one wants to see these animals go out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

Another issue is how an organization that has seen so much bad publicity for failing to meet the needs of their animals effectively raise funds now to save them. “Would you donate to WAO? I wouldn’t,” Cuny says. “If there was some other legitimate organization

saying ‘We’re controlling the purse strings,’ that would be one thing. But right now, to my knowledge, that is not what’s going on.”

Though they continue to solicit funds for animal food and transportation costs, Suzanne Straw, board secretary at the WAO week, concedes Cuny’s points.

“We do know with the history of the Wild Animal Orphanage it will be difficult to do fundraising,” Straw said. “What we’re trying to do now is not putting any money in anybody’s pockets. It’s strictly to feed the animals.”

Yet donors could consider donating directly to food companies, she said. Also, representatives of the International Fund for Animal Welfare will be touring the sanctuary this week. One agenda item will be discussing possibly setting up an account at IFAW for would-be donors to be used for responding to the crisis at WAO.

Funded and filmed by the Discovery Channel, 22 bears were transferred to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado last week. Still, 300 animals remain in Northwest Bexar County at the WAO. And everybody must go, Straw said. While they’d prefer the animals went to accredited animal sanctuaries, they will also consider locations that agree to at least agree to abide by terms of the Animal Welfare Act.

For her part, Cuny said she would be more comfortable if the transfers were subject of levels of oversight above and beyond that of the WAO. “You could sit there and check off roadside attraction after roadside attraction after private owner and say,  ‘This one will take six of these and this one will take six of these,’ but let me tell you that would just add to the tragedy. We’re hoping that is not what happens.”

So far, WAO still holds the reins.

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