Despite its continued growth in terms of international investment and tourist development, one of Costa Rica’s main building blocks in terms of its global branding comes from its commitment to ecology and preservation. From renewable energy projects to conservation efforts, the country is constantly at the forefront when it comes to environmental consciousness.

One of the latest examples comes from a landmark moment in the country’s wildlife conservation project, as in May 2024 Costa Rica finally closed its two state-run zoos. The move involves relocating approximately 250 animals from the Simón Bolívar Zoo in San José and the Santa Ana Conservation Center to a rescue center in Alajuela. 

Spearheaded by the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), this initiative underscores Costa Rica’s goal of preserving wildlife in their natural habitats, moving away from confinement and exhibition to a more organic involvement with the animal’s endemic environments. The fauna, including jaguars, ocelots, caimans, crocodiles, spider monkeys, and sloths, underwent preliminary health checks before being transported. The relocation was a carefully coordinated effort, with animals placed in portable cages and escorted by police to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, known as Zoo Ave. This center will now serve as their new home, offering a more natural and suitable setting for their rehabilitation. 

This decision aligns with both national regulations and international conservation agreements. The government made the resolution to close the state zoos two years ago, aiming to ensure a better quality of life for the animals. The closure of these zoos, some of which had been in operation for over a century, has been met with widespread celebration among animal rights activists. They believe that Costa Rica’s decision sets a precedent as it becomes the first country to eliminate its state-run zoos, a move seen as a significant victory for wildlife preservation worldwide. 

The country’s new focus on sanctuaries and rescue centers marks a shift in how Costa Rica approaches wildlife protection and conservation and also emphasizes cultural consciousness about how animals should be safeguarded in a country bursting with exotic fauna throughout. 

Originally, the zoos were supposed to close in 2014 following a law passed in 2013. However, legal challenges delayed the process. This event marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new, hopeful chapter for animal lovers and conservation in Costa Rica. One of the country’s many foundations when it comes to its “green” aura. 

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