Immediately following EAI’s public announcement that Mundi would be moved to Elephant Refuge North America (ERNA) mid-March, EAI received an email from Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cancelling the contract for the move. The email cited no violations of the contract, but stated that DNR is considering other facilities for Mundi.
EAI has adhered to all the terms of the contract, which has been in effect for 18 months, so the purported cancellation came as a complete surprise.
EAI CEO Carol Buckley immediately began trying to get more information but received no response from Puerto Rico officials.
- DNR Secretary Tania Vázquez contacted Carol to apologize for her lack of communication since assuming authority over Mundi weeks prior. She informed Carol that she would be visiting prospective locations for Mundi’s placement, including ERNA and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee (TES).
- Secretary Vázquez offered no explanation for duplicating the thorough research conducted more than 18 months earlier by a committee assigned by the governor and first lady. She did, however, disclose that TES was hosting her visit.
- Secretary Vázquez visited ERNA on January 15 for three hours, then traveled to TES.
- EAI was advised that since it was in full compliance with all terms of the contract, the cancellation was invalid. EAI then hired attorney Neysa Gonzales of the Jorge R. Jimenez Law Office in Puerto Rico, who also questioned the validity of the cancellation.
- Gonzales tried to arrange meetings with all parties to the contract but received only one response, from the Department of Sports, the original signatory of the contract. The department stated that since authority over Mundi had recently been transferred to DNR, it was no longer involved.
- Gonzales also informed TES about EAI’s contract with the government of Puerto Rico but received no response.
- After continued silence from the DNS secretary, EAI filed a petition for injunction for a legal solution.
- On Wednesday, February 20, EAI CEO Carol Buckley and EAI Secretary/Treasurer Leslie Pon Tell-Schreiber traveled to Puerto Rico to appear in court. They sought immediate relief and a decision on whether the contract cancellation is legal.
- Late on the day before the hearing, the defense filed a motion for dismissal, stating that the case should be heard in civil court, where the proceedings could drag on for years. EAI asserts that the contract should be enforced and Mundi moved as soon as possible.
On March 1, 2019, the judge determined that the plaintiff (EAI) could not prove that there is irreparable damage. This means the judge will not hear the case in her court and that the case would need to be heard in civil court.
We will continue to report updates on this page.
On August 30, 2017: In compliance with Puerto Rico Law 154 the Governor Hon. Richard Rossello Nevares, in a written document, ordered the transfer of Mundi the elephant to Elephant Refuge North America. Read the document.
On May 23, 2018, the Department of Recreation and Sports, represented by its Secretary, Hon. Adriana G. Sanchez Parés, signed a formal Transfer Contract with Elephant Aid International for the female African elephant known as “Mundi” of the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo. The Contract signed by the parties was valid until December 31, 2020. Read the original contract in Spanish. Read a translated copy of the contract in English.
November 2018: EAI announced on their Facebook page that Mundi would be moved from Puerto Rico to Elephant Refuge North America mid-March 2019.
December 2018: Authority over Mundi the elephant was transferred from the Department of Recreation and Sports of the Government of Puerto Rico to the Department of Natural Resources.
On December 28, 2018, the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources of the Government of Puerto Rico, Tania Vázquez Rivera, submitted a written communication to EAI. The letter argued that because the EAI sanctuary was not ready to receive the elephant immediately in order to preserve its life the Agreement was rescinded. Read the letter.