animal circus ban Mexico
Circus owners criticised the ban, arguing that it fails to indicate where the animals are going to be relocated Getty Images

Thousands of exotic species such as camels, tigers and elephants are at risk of becoming homeless in Mexico as the country's new law banned the use of animals in circuses to tackle animal cruelty.

Although the ban will take effect in July, several circuses have already shut down, Reuters reported.

Circus owners are worried about the fate of their animals, arguing that the ban fails to indicate where the animals are going to be relocated.

"We are waiting for a response from the government about what will happen to our animals," said Armando Cedeno, president of the national association of circus owners and artists.

Animal tamer Bruno Raffo from Tizayuca said that it costs around 3,000 Mexican pesos (£132, $194) daily just to feed the tigers, excluding bills from specialised veterinarians for periodic check-ups.

"I'm going to stay here with the animals to see what can be done," said Raffo.

In a previous interview with the Yucatan Times, Cedeno said: "If we can't feed them [the animals], we're going to have to put them to sleep. We don't have any other option."

Last June, at least 1,000 circus employees took to the streets of Mexico City to protest against the ban, arguing it will leave them jobless. It is feared that the ruling will affect some 50,000 circus employees and 3,000 to 3,500 animals.

The employees admitted that animal abuse does happen in some circuses and suggested an inspection system for the city's estimated 50 circuses.

"Why should those who have done no wrong pay the price for those who have?" they said at the time of the protest.

In a press conference, Jesus Sesma, the politician who pushed the law, described it as promoting "a respect for living beings who are not human".

According to Animal Circuses, which aims to educate people about the physical and psychological suffering of animals in captivity, circuses deny captive-born wild animals their need to exhibit natural behaviour.

"In a circus, elephants are chained or confined to a small space and are only able to stand up, lie down or shuffle a few paces backwards and forwards," the NGO said. "Lions and tigers are shut in their beast wagons for over 90% of the time. They, too, need to be able to socialise and roam freely.

"Life in the wild cannot be replicated on the back of transportation trucks or at circus sites around the country."