THE NEW YORK TIMES | 3/31/2010 12:00:00 AM
Through Cage Bars, an Exotic Peek Into Drug Wars
Ms. Torres’s sanctuary houses hundreds of animals rescued largely from drug traffickers and paramilitary warlords, as well as from circuses and animal-smuggling rings, offering a strange window into the excesses and brutalities carried out in this country’s endless drug wars.
Ms. Torres looks after Dany, a Bengal tiger whose caretakers, employed by a paramilitary commander, said that he used to eat the flesh of death-squad victims; a lethargic African lion that had been fed a steady diet of illicit narcotics by its owner; and the ocelots that belonged to a drug lord with the nom-de-guerre Jabón, or Soap.
“Some of the cruelties I’ve seen make me ashamed to be a human being,” said Ms. Torres, 50, a school principal and animal-rights advocate who initially opened the sanctuary 16 years ago for animals, including a now deceased elephant, that had been discarded by traveling circuses around Colombia.
The creatures here, some 800 in all, range from the tiny kinkajou, a nocturnal mammal similar to a ferret found in Colombia’s rain forests, to baboons born across the Atlantic in Africa. Many of the former circus animals, including an old chimpanzee named Yoko, still find repose at Villa Lorena, as Ms. Torres’s sanctuary is called. Other animals, like a king vulture and a pygmy marmoset, one of the world’s smallest monkeys, were rescued in raids on wildlife smugglers who seek to profit from Colombia’s biodiversity.
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