Costa Rica is internationally recognized for its environmental spirit. Now, in keeping with this reputation, country officials have announced that the nation will close all federally funded zoos, releasing captive animals to either the wild or rescue centers by as early as May 2014.
Above: A razor beak toucan, Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images
Environment Minister Rene Castro said the move was a response to “a change of environmental conscience among Costa Ricans.” He announced the closures in late July, noting that the country’s 97-year-old Simon Bolivar Zoo in central San Jose would be transformed into a botanical garden, while another zoo west of the city, the Santa Ana Conservation Center, would become a 51-hectare forest reserve.
“We are getting rid of the cages and reinforcing the idea of interacting with biodiversity in botanical parks in a natural way,” Castro announced at a news conference covered by local media. “We don’t want animals in captivity or enclosed in any way unless it is to rescue or save them.”
The decision has been challenged by the foundation known as Fundazoo, which runs the zoos.
"We're worried about where the ministry is thinking of moving the animals," said foundation spokesman Eduardo Bolanos, according to the AP, "since the Simon Bolivar and the Conservation Center are the only ones that have a veterinarian specialized in forest species and an animal nutritionist."
Will the country's zoo closures come to represent the latest in a recent spate of achievements for animals rights movements? The country certainly has a history of protecting its world-renowned biodiversity and environmental ethos, having previously banned sport hunting as well as circuses featuring animals. Read more about the zoo closures at IBT and AP.