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City Closes Chapultepec Park For Rejuvenation

September 19, 1985

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ More than 4,000 soldiers, scientists and city workers have begun a cleanup and restoration of the oldest section of historic Chapultepec Park, where Aztec emperors hunted four centuries ago.

Millions of rats live in the park, screw worms are destroying the trees, and hundreds of thousands of visitors leave an estimated 400,000 tons of trash each weekend. Animals in the 62-year-old Chapultepec Zoo are in cramped cages, Director Maria Elena Hoyo said Tuesday.

The effort to restore the park began this week with the closing of the oldest section, 395 acres that is the most visited area of the park, city officials said Tuesday.

The $6.5 million project is to end Dec. 15.

Manuel Diaz Infante, who represents the area on the city’s legislative body, said 325 rats’ nests, each home to an estimated 800 to 1,000 rats, have been targeted for removal.

Scientists plan to pursue the rodents with carbon monoxide and traps rather than rat poison, which could harm more desirable wildlife.

Nearly 1,000 dying or damaged trees and shrubs are being uprooted, and the Mexican army has sent in troops to dig holes for planting 150,000 donated trees.

The green Chapultepec boating lake will be drained and dredged by the navy, and the federal Health Department plans to analyze the water to see how serious its amoeba infestation has become, officials said.

An eroding hillside will be shored up below Chapultepec castle, where the French emperor Maximilian lived and where young cadets leaped to their deaths to escape U.S. invaders in the 19th century.

The restoration will provide a rest for the zoo’s animals, and give zookeepers a chance to take inventory, Ms. Hoyo said. The zoo has 2,000 to 2,500 animals of about 240 species, she said.

Larger cages will be built to give the animals more privacy and more room to move, and increase the distance between them and visitors.

Overcrowding has been relieved somewhat by shipping animals to facilities around Mexico and even to Africa, Ms. Hoyo said, and zoo officials are looking into more effective birth control for their charges.

The park’s closing has prompted scattered protests, and the city is planning to sponsor activities in the 1,700 acres of the park’s newer but less accessible sections.

When the old section reopens, motor vehicles will be banned, to help plants survive Mexico City’s heavily polluted air, city officials said. The hundreds of vendors who roam the park each weekend will be confined to a designated space.

The restoration will be followed up by an annual, one-month closure to keep the park from falling again into disrepair.

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