San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Zoo Manager Wins Appeal

Despite government efforts to oust the administrator of the country’s main zoo, slinging accusations of poor conditions for the animals, a high court has ruled the administrator will stay – for now.

The Supreme Court’s Civil and Administrative Law Branch (Sala I) has ruled to annul an arbitration court’s decision that a contract between the Environment Ministry (MINAE) and the private Foundation for Zoos (FUNDAZOO) was properly ended. The arbitration court’s decision in January 2005 meant FUNDAZOO would not be able to continue operating the Simón Bolívar Zoo in central San José or the Conservation Center of Santa Ana, west of the capital (TT, Jan. 28).

However, FUNDAZOO appealed the decision to the Sala I, claiming that MINAE’s representative during arbitration didn’t comply with legal requirements (TT,March 17).

The Sala I’s ruling to annul the arbitration means FUNDAZOO can stay, for now. The court ruled that one of the three arbiters in the case did not have the five years experience required by law to participate. Each party assigned an arbiter and agreed to a third. The one assigned by MINAE was the one without the necessary experience.

“From what I understand, the annulment is based on a formality, not something in depth,” Environment Minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez told The Tico Times. “Whether that means we will can return to arbitration again, I don’t know.”

MINAE is in the process of studying the decision. Rodríguez said if the contract dispute does continue, arbitration is much preferred to taking the disagreement through the regular court system, which he called “very slow.”

While MINAE has issued various reports criticizing FUNDAZOO’s management of the zoo, the contract dispute is not based on zoo conditions. Rather, the parties disagree on an interpretation of a clause in the contract and whether MINAE ended the contract in time in 2003 before it was automatically renewed for another 10 years.

Approximately 40 protesters gathered last month outside Simón Bolívar zoo and for three hours tried to discourage visitors from entering. The protestors claimed the FUNDAZOO has created “disastrous” conditions for zoo animals (TT,March 31).

FUNDAZOO told The Tico Times it is beginning legal action against people who have injured or slandered FUNDAZOO. No further details were given.


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