New bill would prohibit creating any more zoos in Costa Rica

By Conor Golden
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature now has a new bill calling for a prohibition of all new public or private zoos.

The reforms to the existing conservation law calls for no new zoos, public or private, to be created along with no new extension of existing zoos in the country. This bill would tell existing zoo operators not to replace any animals or other specimens in its facilities. Importation of wild or other exotic animals for the purpose of a zoo would also be prohibited. The hunting of wild animals for these establishments would be prohibited.

The only extensions allowed existing zoos would be only that which would improve the safety and health conditions of the animals already there, the legislation reads. A zoo would also be eliminated as a subcategory as a wildlife management site, it said.

The proposed penalty for anyone who would try to establish a new zoo or breaks the proposed regulations for an existing zoo would be a minimum fine 10 times that of the base salary. The maximum penalty would be the closing of the zoo and a fine 30 times that of the base salary.

Currently, the bill defines the base salary as 257,650 colons, or

Kivú, as seen in better days.

Kivú, as seen in better days.

around $460. The minimum fine proposed in this bill would put the penalty between 2,576,500 and 7,729,500 colons. That puts it between $4,600 to $13,802.

The last element in this proposed reform is the authorization to give existing zoos five years to close or request authorization from the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía to change the management model and convert the zoo to a wildlife management site.

This bill comes in response to the controversial nature of zoos in Costa Rica and some facilities’ alleged mistreatment of the animals.

Officials from the Ministerio de Ambiente y Energía together with the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería transferred Kivú, the lion, to Zoo Ave in La Garita in what appeared to be a made-for-television event back in December.

The lion had previously been living at the Simón Bolivar Parque Zoológico y Jardín Botánico Nacional in north San José.

Zoo officials had wanted to move the lion to its Centro de Conservación Santa Ana and a new enclosure for Kivú. But the lion became a pawn for a power struggle between government officials and the foundation that operates the zoo, Fundación Pro Zoológicos. There also had been public protests by animal rights activists.

That zoo is nearly 100 years old but, like others, has become the target of the animal rights groups who protest the idea of caged animals. The lion was one of two confiscated by a traveling circus 18 years ago.

The fuss over the aged lion is the latest in an effort by the environmental ministry to close down the place.

The new home for the lion is an area with vegetation, logs, a cave, platforms, and a water pit, based on the international standards in place for maintaining wild animals, said officials as they moved the lion. Still the lion is reported near death.

The government owns the land on which the zoo is located, and the environmental ministry has hopes of turning what is now the zoo into a botanical garden. There have been continual court fights.

Like all legislation pieces, this bill needs to undergo a potentially long journey through the legislative system. The bill could take years and could be extensively modified before it becomes a law.

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