WELD COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Puerto Rico’s government has announced the closure of the U.S. territory’s only zoo following years of animal welfare concerns.

The permanent closure of the 45-acre zoo was announced last month, as investigations continue into allegations of abuse and neglect.

It means more than 300 animals will have to find new homes, and the majority will likely be coming here to Colorado. 

Specifically, many of the animals will come to the Wild Animal Sanctuary outside of Keenesberg, in Weld County, where more than 700 animals have already been rescued from similar situations.

“We’re definitely preparing,” said Derek McCormick, a spokesperson for the sanctuary. “It’s going to be a massive effort, for sure.”

McCormick said the sanctuary’s founder, Pat Craig, recently flew to Puerto Rico to examine the situation. 

He’s been tasked with finding new homes across the country for all of the animals and anticipates most of the large carnivores will be moved to Colorado. 

Animals with specialized needs like elephants, rhinos, and chimpanzees will be placed elsewhere, along with any reptiles or exotic birds.

The sanctuary will design and build special crates, before mailing them to Puerto Rico.

Animals will then be flown to the continental United States, before being re-integrated into their new homes.

“The animals that are coming to us, they’re neglected, they’re not being taken care of, and they’re being exploited,” said McCormick. “And they’re born in captivity, they’ve never experienced the wild, they’ve never set foot on grass, so it’s tough.”

McCormick said the sanctuary will likely foot the bill for the entire transfer, which he estimates will be the largest exotic animal transfer ever done in the world.

“It’s a massive effort, it’s an island,” he said. “It’s crazy, but it’s going to be a good thing.” 

McCormick said visitors to the sanctuary will likely be able to see some of those animals within a few months, depending on how much veterinarian care they need upon arrival in Colorado.