Wild bird, fish and roosters get help from law enforcement

Judicial Investigating Organization photo These are some of the birds confiscated in Pérez Zeldón

Law enforcement was out protecting tropical birds, fish and chickens over the weekend. The biggest haul was the capture of a murder suspect and 56 other wanted individuals when the Fuerza Pública broke up a chicken fight on Calle Fallas in Desamparados. There were an estimated 243 persons there watching the roosters kill each other.

Up in the Refugio Nacional de Vida Silvestre Caño Negro, officers were out protecting the tropical gar, a fish sometimes called a living fossil because it has not changed in 150 million years.

Friday, judicial agents raided properties in Pérez Zeledón where endangered species of birds were being kept in cages.

Sunday also saw a march for the defense of animals through downtown San José.

The raid in Desamparados involved what is known as agallera, a ring for the purpose of pitting one rooster against another. Some 20 minors were among the crowd.

Fans of chicken fighting have launched a campaign to have the matches made legal. But they still were illegal as of Sunday.

Raúl Rivera, the Fuerza Pública director in San José, said that there were 150 birds there in various states of health. Some even were dead. Others were badly hurt.

Police confiscated three firearms and 287 spurs that fight fans attach to the legs of the birds to make them more deadly.

Among the persons in the crowd was a man with a warrant for murder, said police.

Ministerio de Salud workers were there, too, and said that the sales of food and alcohol were substandard. Spectators paid between 1,000 to 2,000 colons to attend, said police. That’s from $2 to $4

Also participating in the early afternoon raid were representatives from the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal.

Chicken fighting has a long tradition in the Latin culture. The Asociatión Nacional de Criadores de Gallos embarked on a campaign last week to legalize the events. The fights are held in many locations in the country, mostly Sunday afternoons. One of the attractions is betting.

The gar fish (Atractosteus tropicus) are a major tourism attraction at Caño Negro near the Nicaraguan border. The fish breed in the shallow waters and are easily captured by illegal fishermen. The meat is a delicacy and sells for about 4,000 colons a kilo or about $8.

Fuerza Pública officers detained four men and a woman who were in a boat and had 21 fish in their possession.

The reserve is near Los Chiles in the northern zone and it is famous for the many species of birds, mammals and fish there. Among these are crocodiles, which are hunted illegally for their skin.

Police swept the eight lagoons that make up the swampy area Sunday morning. They said they were responding to reports that dozens of persons were attempting to capture and carry off the fish. The tropical gar is the only species in Costa Rica. It has a broader mouth then similar fish in the United States and has been called pejelagarto or crocodile fish. It has very visible rows of tiny teeth. A gar can grow to  nearly two meters, more than six feet. Its principal diet is smaller fish.

The fish spawn in the lagoons, which are part of the Río Frio system. The reserve is about 10,000 hectares or some 24,700 acres.

Because the water is so shallow, the fish can be seen from above, making them vulnerable to spears and other methods of capture.

Police spent much of the day dismantling nets and freeing fish that had become trapped in them.

The Friday morning raids that netted the captured tropical birds were in San Francisco de Rivas,  Guadalupe and Chimerol de Rivas, all Pérez Zeledón. Judicial agents said that they confiscated 22 wild birds.

Some of the San José downtown marchers brought with them animals that had been mistreated to the point of having lost limbs or the ability to walk well. The marchers were backing a bill in the legislature that would criminalize mistreatment of animals. The measure is due to be discussed today.

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