Feline exhibit highlighted plight of endangered cats

Hunting big cats was not always illegal, as witnessed by this undated historical photo taken in the San José area.

The Museos del Banco Central under the Plaza de la Cultura has highlighted the artistic and natural history of one of Costa Rica’s oldest and most effective predators on a recent exhibit.

Costa Rica’s felines migrated from Eurasia over the Bering straight 1.8 million years ago. And since 300 B.C. their presence has been documented in the crafts and traditions of native peoples in clay, stone, gold and folklore.

The recent exhibit told the history and displayed much of the art surrounding Costa Rica’s most prominent cats: the jaguar, cougar, ocelot, jaguarundi and the tigrillo. For example, in BriBri culture the jaguar is associated with high-ranking officials that have the power to protect the society.

But the exhibit should also call attention to the tenuous existence of Costa Rica’s majestic creatures, all six of which are threatened with extinction. Deforestation is the leading threat to felines, forcing them to search elsewhere for food and risk being shot by humans. Hunting the protected felines is illegal in Costa Rica.

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