Costa Rica officially closes state zoos, moves animals to rescue center: “We are getting rid of the cages”

Costa Rica officially closes state zoos, moves animals to rescue center: “We are getting rid of the cages”

Costa Rica is known for its amazing and exotic wildlife: the country is home to diverse animals including sloths, jaguars, monkeys, toucans and parrots.

Recently, Costa Rica made an extraordinary and long-awaited move to protect its wildlife: they’re closing all their zoos.

According to Costa Rican newspaper The Tico Times, the Costa Rica government announced last week that it will close the two state zoos and not renew a contract with the Fundazoo Foundation.

The plan was first announced back in 2013. “We are getting rid of the cages and reinforcing the idea of interacting with biodiversity in botanical parks in a natural way,” Environment Minister René Castro said at a press conference at the time.


“We don’t want animals in captivity or enclosed in any way unless it is to rescue or save them.”

While the idea to go cage-free was cheered by animal activists, it also proved to be controversial, as some questioned the practicality of releasing animals that have long lived in captivity.

“If they close it down, none of the animals here could be released. Most have permanent injuries. Even though they have been treated, these injuries prevent them from flying or seeing well,” Randall Arguedas, a veterinarian at the Simon Bolivar Zoo, said in 2013, per CNN. “Some have simply lost their natural instincts. In other words, they will always have to live in captivity.”


There was also concern about the logistics of moving the animals to already-overcrowded wildlife rescues. “We have received so many animals this year that we have been forced to turn away animals,” Maria Pia Martin, wildlife veterinarian at rescue center, Kids Saving the Rainforest, told National Geographic.

But the government said that closing the zoos was in the animals’ best interest, and according to CNN environmental activists accused the zoos of having cramped cages and unsanitary conditions, which zoo officials denied.

Due to legal hurdles and a contract with Fundazoo, the plan to close the zoos was delayed a whole decade, but is now going into effect.


According to The Tico Times, 300 animals — including crocodiles, spider monkeys, a sloth and a jaguar — were loaded onto trucks and transferred out of the Simón Bolívar Zoo in San José, and relocated to a local refuge.

Official José Pablo Vázquez of the Ministry of Environment said that the various animals were examined before the transfer.

“We have become a country without state zoos and with a vision towards sanctuaries and rescue centers only,” said Franz Tattenbach, Minister of Environment.

While the two state zoos have now closed, the law does not affect the 18 private zoos in Costa Rica.


What do you think of this idea? Should more countries close their state zoos? Please share this story with your thoughts.

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