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Costa Rica plans to shut down zoos, return animals to the wild

Flie photo courtesy: Carol Schaffer/Flickr

Flie photo courtesy: Carol Schaffer/Flickr

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    Cheryl Santa Maria
    Digital Reporter

    Tuesday, August 6, 2013, 2:42 PM -

    Once again, Costa Rica is leading the charge in animal rights.

    Last month, government officials announced their plans to transform they country's two zoos into urban parks and allow its caged animals to roam free.

    Authorities are planning to work with experts to determine which animals can be re-released into the wild. Those animals will be rehabilitated and set free when appropriate. Animals that are unable to return to the wild will be moved to national conservation areas.

    Environment Minister Rene Castro told media the change was prompted by a "a change of environmental conscience among Costa Ricans."

    The zoo closures are expected to take place in May 2014.

    This isn't the first animal-friendly move the country has made in recent months.

    In December, Costa Rica became the first Latin American country to ban sport hunting.

    The country is home to half a dozen endangered cat species -- including jaguars and pumas, both of which have seen population declines due to aggressive hunting.

    More than 50% of the country is covered by woodland. About 30% of that land is under national parks protection.

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