WILMINGTON — Southeastern North Carolina’s oldest Zoo, Tregembo Animal Park, came under fire this week when PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regarding the well-being of the parks animals.
The complaint from PETA states that “an eyewitness recently documented animals in cramped cages and in apparent need of veterinary attention. Video footage shows a limping Guenon monkey, a fox and a donkey with hair loss, and a bobcat who appears to have difficulty navigating up a structure—an indication of possible visual impairment that requires a veterinary evaluation.”
“Tregembo Animal Park apparently cannot or will not provide animals with some of their most basic needs, including sufficient space,” PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet, said. “PETA is calling on authorities to step in and make sure that these animals aren’t left to suffer in cramped, squalid cages.”
USDA/APHIS Spokeswoman Tanya Espinosa confirmed that PETA has filed a complaint.
“We are looking into it, but that does not necessarily mean there will be an investigation,” Espinosa said.
Espinosa said Tregembo Animal Park was last inspected and cleared to operate in February of 2017.
The last USDA action taken against the zoo was in 1991 for “inadequate repair of enclosures, it appears there were some cracks in the concrete,” Espinosa said.
Sherry Tregembo, owner of Tregembo Animal Park, said “there is no merit to the claims.”
“They (PETA) try this about the same every year,” Tregembo said. “They think they’re hurting our business, but they aren’t.”
Tregembo points out that there are signs on each exhibit, explaining the actions folks might deem “strange.”
“The Guenon Monkey has been faking that limp for 20 years now,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with her, it’s just play behavior.”
According to Tregembo, many of the animals in the zoo are rescued animals, such as the 15-year-old blind bobcat. The cat, originally from Montana, was being raised in a household with small children, she said. Being unfit to be released in the wild, it was placed with Tregembo Animal Park by the North Carolina Wildlife Commission to live out the rest of his life.
“All animals can’t look perfect all their life, same with people,” said Tregembo. “We’re not just going to put him down for being old and blind.”
“A lot of the animals are shedding this time of year, they aren’t just losing hair.” Tregembo said, referring to another of PETAs claims.
Espinosa acknowledged that PETA filed a similar complaint last year, and has done so in previous years. She could not immediately cite the exact number of complaints made by PETA regarding the zoo.