MEXICO CITY—A holiday party at a Mexican zoo took a morbid twist when the director allegedly killed four of the facility’s pygmy goats and served them as food to guests.
José Rubén Nava headed a zoo in Chilpancingo, the capital of the southwestern state of Guerrero. He was replaced on Jan 12. after authorities discovered what he’d done.
“These four animals were slaughtered and cooked on the zoo’s premises, and were served as food at the end of the year party,” said Fernando Ruiz Gutierrez, the Guerrero state Environment Department’s director of wildlife in a video announcing the allegations against Nava on Tuesday. “This put the health of the people who ate them at risk, because these animals were not fit for human consumption.”
Pygmy goats—while somewhat similar to the common breed widely found and used in food—are smaller, stocky, and rare. It’s unclear if the guests were aware that they were eating zoo animals during the party, or if any official charges have been filed against Nava.
Authorities alleged that along with the slaying of the goats, Nava engaged in the selling and trading of animals as well. They specifically mentioned that a zebra was traded for tools that were supposedly needed for repairs around the facility, although the tools were never found by authorities. Nava also allegedly gave at least one deer and four rare African Watusi cattle to private citizens. Several other creatures were also missing, including a jaguarundi, a female coyote, 10 specimens of reptiles, a baby macaw and a red-tailed hawk.
The investigation into the so-called “Zoochilpan” began in January after the suspicious death of a deer that was discovered by nearby residents, who notified authorities, the environmental department members said in the video.
Nava gave his own press conference on Wednesday denying the allegations. He claimed that members of the environmental department were waging a “dirty war” against him because one of its top officials wanted his nephew to run the zoo, instead of Nava.
The illegal sale of exotic wildlife is rampant in Mexico. It’s become somewhat common for authorities to discover private zoos or animals like lions and tigers kept as house pets when raiding the homes and properties of members of organized crime. It’s also not uncommon for these animals to escape their owners and run loose in towns and cities around the country.
In November 2021, an obese Bengal tiger was discovered wandering along a rural highway in the state of Jalisco. Another Bengal tiger escaped from a private owner on the outskirts of the city of Guadalajara in May 2020. Later that same year, a woman was photographed walking a baby tiger on a leash in a Mexico City shopping mall.
But the questionable practices of zoos and people involved in the exotic wildlife trade is not unique to Mexico. Over the past month, a series of animal escapes, a mysterious death, and disappearances at a zoo in Dallas has captivated true crime sleuths around the United States. Two missing monkeys from the Dallas zoo were found in an abandoned home on Wednesday.