Home News Costa Rica relocates hundreds of animals after banning public zoos

Costa Rica relocates hundreds of animals after banning public zoos


Costa Rica announced last week it would close its two remaining state zoos, facing legal pushback over a law it passed more than a decade ago banning government funding of captive wild animals.

Costa Rica’s Ministry of Environment and Energy said in a statement statement On Saturday it said it would not renew its contract with Fundazoo, the foundation that runs the zoo. The move would close the country’s last two state zoos: the Simon Bolivar Zoo and the Santa Ana Conservation Center.

State officials last week began moving 287 animals from the two facilities to rehabilitation centers, where the animals’ health will be evaluated to determine the best environment for them. The ministry said some of the animals had been in captivity for more than 30 years.

Environment and Energy Minister Franz Tuttenbach said Saturday that Costa Rica will work to establish sanctuaries for animals that cannot be returned to the wild.

“Captivity is justified only when the animal cannot return to the forest due to physical or behavioral problems that prevent it from living free,” Mr. Tuttenbach said in a Spanish-language report. Video on Facebook. “This closure solidifies Costa Rica’s vision for wildlife conservation.”

More than a decade ago, Costa Rica passed a wildlife protection law in 2013, banning the keeping of wild animals in captivity. Costa Rica’s state-run zoos were scheduled to close in 2014, but Fundazoo filed a legal appeal against the law, delaying the closure of public zoos, according to wildlife nonprofit FAADA Foundation.

“Closing the state zoo is a very important step forward,” FAADA said in a statement. statement. “Together we celebrate this historic achievement.”

According to FAADA, the law does not apply to Costa Rica’s 18 private zoos.

Fundazoo did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

José Pablo Vásquez, a biologist with the government organization that oversees conservation efforts, said in a statement on Saturday that an inventory of the animals removed from the two zoos had been carried out. They are being evaluated by a team of biologists and veterinarians.

Mr Tuttenbach said the animals would be kept in quarantine until the team decided whether they could be reintroduced into the wild or whether they were best cared for in a sanctuary. The ministry said some animals, including crocodiles and some sea turtles, had not been moved out of the zoo as of Tuesday.

In some cases, it can take years for animals to be ready for the wild, and some animals may not be able to return to the wild at all, said Dr. Darryl Hurd, an associate professor of animal medicine at the University of Florida.

“If they’re out of the wild or in captivity, they don’t develop skills like eating and protecting themselves from predators,” Dr. Hurd said.

Dr. Alonso Aguirre, dean of the Warner College of Natural Resources at Colorado State University, said it may be difficult for some animals to return to the wild, noting Keiko the whale in the movie “Free Willie”,” died after being released.

“So many animals, the only thing they’ve ever known is captivity,” Dr. Aguirre said.

He said Costa Rica could set an example for other countries on how to stay away from zoos while keeping certain species safe.

“We have to break free from captivity,” Dr. Aguirre said. “I think this is a huge lesson for the world. If Costa Rica can do it, then everyone else can do it.”

While some wildlife advocates across North America have called for zoos to close, Dr Hurd said it was a “very complex issue” that should focus on animal protection.

“I know there are things that still need to be improved,” Dr. Hurd said of the zoo. “But there is an overall positive trend in addressing these issues.”

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