“No Cages” is the new policy on zoo animals in Costa Rica. Animals at the Simon Bolivar Zoo will be released or taken to sanctuaries. The zoo will be changed dramatically into a botanical garden and the Santa Ana Conservation Center will be made into a park.
Environment Minister Rene Castro made the announcement. He has had a fondness for animals and told a story about his grandmother’s pet parrot, “One day, the parrot that lives in the courtyard, one flock of wild parrots came and the parrot went with them. I was shocked because I thought that we took care of it well. We fed her and gave affection … all those things that humans believed that she liked and when she had the opportunity…” (Source: Nacion)
Some might say that closing zoos is a bad idea, because visitors can learn about animals by observing them up close. Some zoos also have lectures by officials and demonstrations for educational purposes. However, Costa Rica is known for its abundant wildlife and vast array of plants in nature. The Costa Rican people and many annual tourists can also learn simply by going on nature hikes and tours. Also, with the tremendous information resources online, learning can take place in the digital realm.
The main issue in keeping captive animals is that they are often in very restricted quarters, where they can’t move nearly as much as they would normally. So their quality of life can be very low. Another issue with zoos is that we have all become habituated to them and therefore desensitized to their cruelty. This fact may show up in general attitudes towards animals, like the view that they are nothing more than objects to entertain humans. Taking away their freedom surely has impacted our perceptions of them.
Also, the food animals in captivity are given may not be what they would naturally consume, and their health can be damaged.
Costa Rica has been know to lead on issues related to ecology, so perhaps there is a chance that other zoos will also close. Animals in circuses and sport hunting have already been banned there.