The roars of lions, snorts of rhinos, and trumpets of elephants still blend with the cacophony of honking cars in a heavily congested area of Argentina's capital. A year after the 140-year-old Buenos Aires zoo closed and was transformed into a park, hundreds of animals remain behind bars in a noisy limbo. Developers last July promised to move most of the 1,500 animals to sanctuaries but had no firm arrangements, reports the AP. A new master plan announced Tuesday still doesn't specify how, and many animals are so zoo-trained that experts fear they would die if moved. Conservationists also complain the remaining animals still live in antiquated and inhumane enclosures—and say the city's new plan gives few specifics on improvements. "It's gone from bad to worse," says a former Buenos Aires zoo director. "Everything is set for Noah's Ark to be shipwrecked."
When Mayor Horacio Rodriguez Larreta announced its closure last year, he said the animals were a "treasure" that couldn't remain near the noise. Some condors have since been freed, and about 360 animals rescued from trafficking have been sent to other institutions. But not a single animal owned by the city has left. "We knew that this was going to take time," Rodriguez Larreta said Tuesday. "Speeding up the process will just put them at risk, so we're going to take all the time that's necessary." Rodriguez Larreta unveiled a plan showing a revamped layout and expanded green spaces. Many animals will share "controlled zones" instead of cages, and natural limits like rocks or moats will be used instead of bars. "There are minor infrastructural changes, but there is a total deterioration," says a vet who worked at the zoo. "The enclosures haven't been modified, and obviously, the animals suffer." (Read more Buenos Aires stories.)