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Costa Rica pushes to close public zoos, return some caged animals to the wild

Costa Rica pushes to close public zoos, return some caged animals to the wild

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Costa Rica's two public zoos may be closing next year as officials attempt to build a new, cage-free environment. Environment Minister Rene Castro says that due to "a change of environmental conscience" in Costa Rica, the Simon Bolivar Zoo will become a botanical garden with no captive animals. Instead, visitors will be able to observe animals that arrive naturally, likely a variety of birds, reptiles, and small mammals. The Santa Ana Conservation Center is also supposed to close in its current form, but it's not yet clear what it will reopen as.

Together, the two zoos hold 400 animals of 60 species, according to the Associated Press. When possible, these animals will be returned to the wild. However, that likely won't be possible for many of the animals. Deputy Environment Minister Ana Lorena Guevara has said she's working with rescue organizations to find homes for all the zoos' current residents; if any remain unclaimed, they'll become wards of the government's national parks program.

Fundazoo, which runs both zoos, is attempting to block the move, pointing to a contract that it says runs until 2024. Spokesman Eduardo Bolanos also opposed the change on practical grounds. "We're worried about where the ministry is thinking of moving the animals since the Simon Bolivar and the Conservation Center are the only ones that have a veterinarian specialized in forest species and an animal nutritionist," he said.