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What the tropical nation of Costa Rica lacks in size, it more than makes up for in a wealth of biodiversity.

 Despite occupying just 0.03% of the planet’s surface, the county's lush forests are home to an incredible 500 thousand unique organisms -- representing over 4% of all the known species on Earth. For the hundreds of animals held captive in the country's zoos, however, that hotbed of life had been replaced by the cold bars of a cage.

But now, in a remarkable push to restore natural order for all its animal inhabitants, the Costa Rican government has announced plans to close its zoos, freeing creatures from their long captivity.

“We are getting rid of the cages and reinforcing the idea of interacting with biodiversity in botanical parks in a natural way,” said Environment Minister Ren√© Castro. “We don't want animals in captivity or enclosed in any way unless it is to rescue or save them.”

The closures will take effect in March 2014, when the government's contract with the organization that operates its two zoos is set to expire -- a move that Castro says reflects "a change of environmental conscience among Costa Ricans." The facilities which now house captive animals, Simon Bolivar Zoo and the Santa Ana Conservation Center, will be then transformed into urban parks or gardens where wildlife can visit and live freely if they so choose.


As for the many birds, mammals, reptiles and insects on display today, the government is working to find them more appropriate homes. It is believed that many of these animals will be able to be relocated within the nation's vast forest preserves, with those deemed unsuited for release being sent to live out their days under the care of wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centers.


Costa Rica's move to shutter its zoos comes on the heels of other recent legislation aimed at protecting animals from a life in captivity. Earlier this year, India became the largest nation to ban the exploitation of dolphins, joining the ranks of Costa Rica, Hungary, and Chile. In the United States, the keeping of captive chimpanzees will soon be strictly limited as they are likely candidates for protection from the Endangered Species Act.


Still, despite the efforts of some animal-right groups which see zoo life as inherently inhumane, zoo closures in other parts of the world still seem a long way off. Quietly though, a paradigm shift may already be underway as popular thinking begins to consider a kinship and our shared fate with the natural world around us and not merely a dominion over it.
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Responses to "Costa Rica announces plans to close its zoos, release animals from captivity"

  1. Anonymous says:

    These animals are facing certain death if released. They DO NOT know how to survive outside in the wild. They don`t know how to hunt for food, or where the water is. How can people be so stupid? You must keep them now protected from the wild, they no longer know how to survive, you`ve taken that away from them.

  2. nancy says:

    Pretty sure they're not just dumping them out beside the road somewhere. The article states sanctuaries and preserves and finding suitable homes for the birds,mammals and reptiles that are not suitable for release. These animals may be captive but they still have their instincts intact,I doubt many will have trouble acclimating to their new surroundings.

  3. Anonymous says:

    All sentient beings have the right to live a free life! With a properly planned rehabilitation program and support from wildlife rehabilitators this is totally possible. Welldone Costa Rica!

  4. Unknown says:

    I wish this was world wide.

  5. Kerry kirk says:

    I think in some ways this.is great but its clear some people don't understand that without zoos some creatures would be far nearer extinction than they already are. Although some are awful so many are.fantastic and their breeding programmes are essential.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am all for releasing the animals. Your video on the other hand shows just a still shot of a mother starting to clean her child. It is a still shot, NOT a video of anything !!!

  7. Mep says:

    Mixed feelings on this. I am sure this is for the best and it is about time we stop exploiting these creatures and not giving them enough room to exercise and grow naturally. But on the other hand I have always been told once an animal is "domesticated" on any level they will not thrive in the wild as they will still seek human companionship on some levels. This could be their demise. But if properly rehabilitated to natural survival and they allow for instinct to kick in this just may work. At least some countries are finally realizing how inhumane it is to keep animals for show. Lastly, I also agree with Kerry. Some of these zoo's breeding programs are the only thing keeping many endangered species breeds alive. So again, many mixed feelings on this but it is a start to humanity and compassion for all living creatures! Kudos Costa Rica!!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    One of my amazons is a rescue she had her wings butchered when she was only 2 and a half months old to keep her from flying away. She was found in the woods near death by a little boy who brought her to me. Now she is over a year old and can fly, but she cannot maintain glide so she has to constantly flap her wings to stay aloft. My little girl can never be released into the wild because the center section of her wings will not grow. It was so heart braking when I first saw her with the wings butchered.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Please read people. "those deemed unsuited for release being sent to live out their days under the care of wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centers." They will not be dumped to try and survive in the wild if they don't have the skills.

  10. costa rica con Corazon♥

  11. Anonymous says:

    When I was in Costa Rica, I was impressed with a great respect for animals shared by everyone that I met- Butterfly sanctuary, zoo, wildlife tours. Once in a restaurant, a scorpion came to visit. The staff didn't kill it. They collected it and released it into the flowers nearby.
    Costa Rica has had many laws to protect wildlife and their jungles, for awhile. The culture seems very intune with how connected they are are with their environment. I believe they know what they are doing and have the animals best interest in mind. I am usually not this trusting towards governments. But in this case, I trust CR is doing the right thing.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Mixed feelings also...many zoos are indeed terrible while others are doing great work and have saved endangered species... Many children have learned to love animals and have gone on to become biologists and whatnot thanks to their early exposure to animals. I am glad Costa Rica is heading in this direction but hope that all animals survive their release.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Very good idea!

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