GARFIELD, New Jersey (WABC) -- Nearly 3,000 people have signed a petition to save the Wildlife Education and Conservation Center, better known as New Jersey's Bat Cave, which is in danger of losing its lease after the building it has called home for five years was sold.
The mini-zoo of sorts has been a destination for school groups and families, but now, its 100 exotic animals -- including bats, sloths, wallaby, reptiles and other wildlife including protected and endangered species -- face an unknown future.
"Some of them are federally and state protected endangered species, and a move could traumatize them to the point of sickness or even death," owner and director Joseph D'Angeli said.
He says the lease is set to expire on March 31, and amid rumors that the building is to be demolished for new development, he says he cannot get an answer on whether the lease can be extended.
"So now we have to try to fight to remain here in this location because we feel that we were railroaded, we were lied to, and we were deceived," he said. "And we feel at the very least, they should at least offer for us to buy the building."
He said he has spent around $60,000 of his own money renovating the lower level and basement of the facility so that the animals could have bigger exhibits and the building could host more visitors, and that he was given a five-year lease extension in January that was already signed by the landlord.
But while his attorney was looking it over, the offer was rescinded with a note that the building was in contract to be sold.
"My landlord knew about these plans and he approved of these plans, and he watched me pour my money (and the center's money) into these improvements with our understanding that we would be staying here for the long haul," he wrote in a note to supporters. "He continued to let me pour money into the basement knowing all along that he was selling the properties."
He said the animals of the wildlife center will not have a home, and both he and the center are out thousands of additional dollars.
"I know it takes a lot of money to fight a mega-developer," he said. "But what we lack in the finance department, we make up for in support in the environmental field."
Anyone interested in signing the petition can CLICK HERE for more information.
"If you have personally visited the wildlife center, then you know how magical it is, how fun and educational the birthday parties here are," he wrote. "It is home to many neglected animals, animals that have been confiscated and animals that have been abandoned. The animals and I need your help."
Eyewitness News reached out to the landlord on multiple occasions but did not receive any response.
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