In a country teeming with wildlife, the Costa Rican government has decided to close its last two government-funded zoos, citing, among other things, that the animals within live in cramped cages, and that, “They have so much contact with humans, they are in a constant state of stress.”
But not everyone is happy about the decision. The Tico Times reports that the zoo’s operator, Fundazoo, has already filed an appeal. In what seems like a logical statement, Fundazoo spokesman Eduardo Bolanos asked Castro’s Ministry, “Where are they taking these animals? Why do they want this to stop being a zoo? Where are people going to see Costa Rica’s biodiversity if they close down the country’s most easily accessible public zoo?”
Last December, keeping wildlife as pets became illegal under a strict new law created by “society submission,” meaning that a sufficient number of Costa Ricans requested it for the law to be enacted. According to Dent, the country has a long tradition of keeping wildlife as pets, and in a study carried out in 2000, it was determined that one in four families engaged in the practice. It’s a deeply set attitude that will take some time to change, but Dent says that in the long term the law will provide “stronger background” for ensuring that people stop purchasing wildlife—a practice that has always been illegal. But already an enormous number of animals need new homes.
According to National Geographic, “Jose-Joaquin Calvo, wildlife manager for MINAE’s National System of Conservation Areas, calls the situation an ‘emergency’ and said his organization and others are working to house the animals.” But as people flock to centers, these places are becoming overwhelmed with snakes and sloths and (who knows what else?) ocelots. In a response to the problem, the government has now created a loophole in its December law, which allows current owners of wildlife to keep theirs until more rescue centers can be created.