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Costa Rica announced in 2013 that it will become the first country in the world to close down its zoos and free all captive animals. The small tropical nation is home to 4 percent of all known species, making it one of the most biodiverse places on earth. Treehugger reports that Costa Rica wants to close its two government-run zoos as part of an emergent new environmental consciousness that questions humanity’s dominion over all other creatures. But plans to move forward fell through when FUNDAZOO, the non-profit that runs Costa Rica’s zoos, sued to keep the zoos open for at least another decade.
Although there are only two zoos in the country, which was also the first in the region to completely ban hunting for sport, the Simon Bolivar Zoo and the Santa Ana Conservation, Costa Rica’s announcement sends a very clear message about its national attitude towards its wild birds, mammals, and reptiles.
“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 René Castro. “We don’t want animals in captivity or enclosed in any way unless it is to rescue or save them.”
The zoos were originally slated to become urban parks or gardens in March, 2014, when existing management contracts have run their course. FUNDAZOO sued Costa Rica’s Environmental Ministry, claiming that they weren’t given enough notice to terminate their management contract. An administrative court found in favor of the complaint, meaning that the zoos can’t close until 2024 at the earliest. When, and if, Costa Rica is able to close the zoos, the area will still be available to wild creatures that choose to visit, and those captive animals that can’t be released into the wild will be cared for in rescue centers and wildlife sanctuaries throughout the country.