‘The animals own the place’: Argentine sanctuary ruled by llamas and cows

Armando Scoppa feeds a rescued horse at his animal sanctuary “Animal Paradise,” he has been managing with his wife Gabriela Bezeric for over a quarter of a century, in General Rodriguez, Argentina January 24, 2020. Picture taken January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mariana Greif

GENERAL RODRIGUEZ, Argentina – In the “Animal Paradise” sanctuary, 75 kilometers (50 miles) outside Argentine capital Buenos Aires, it is clear who’s king: the ducks, llamas, pigs, horses and local capybara who wander the pastures and farmyards at leisure. 

The center is the labor of love of husband and wife, Gabriela Bezeric and Armando Scoppa. The two have been running the facility for over a quarter of a century, rescuing animals that would otherwise have been killed for meat. 

The current number of “residents” is 850.

“I always say that I am going to save all the animals that are at risk of death,” Bezeric told Reuters at the sanctuary. She hopes, one day, to be able to expand, including with a veterinary hospital on the site currently being built.

The couple are strong advocates of animal rights in a country where meat consumption is central to the culture, an important industry and indicator of the economy.

“The Animal Paradise is the product of the work of two visionaries who believe in giving a second chance to animals, mostly those destined for consumption,” said sanctuary volunteer Yamila Buboff.

“So that they can be treated as the sentient beings they are, and not just as a plate of food.”

Life is not always easy, especially with a wider economic crisis hitting the South American nation, which has held up some of the couple’s plans for expansion. They are now looking for sponsors and financial backers to help stay afloat.

“The important thing is that our ‘Paradise’ can keep going,” said Bezeric. “Everything I do is for the animals, and I want to continue so that this remains for them.” 

As he fed “Wolf,” one of the sanctuary’s recently saved horses, Scoppa said that the facility was held in the name of a foundation. Now that the couple are in their 70s, he sometimes worries about who will take over the place in the future.

“There are no heirs here. The animals are the only ones to inherit it,” he said. “The animals own the place.”


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