Costa Rica’s Environment Ministry (MINAE) has been making plans to close the country’s two public zoos. But on Tuesday, a local court ruled in favor of an injunction against MINAE, temporarily preventing the ministry from moving forward with the closures.
“They can’t come in the doors,” said Eduardo Bolaños, spokesman for the zoo’s administrative organization, FUNDAZOO. “They can’t do anything in the zoo at all.”
MINAE publicly announced in July that it would remove the animals from both the Simón Bolívar Zoo in San José and the Santa Ana Conservation Center, southwest of the capital, and replace the zoos with cage-less bio-parks. The change is set to take place next May, when MINAE’s 10-year contract expires with FUNDAZOO, which has served as the zoos’ administrator for the past 19 years.
The injunction will stay in effect until a court rules on whether or not FUNDAZOO is legally entitled to continue as the zoos’ administrator. According to FUNDAZOO, its contract automatically renews every 10 years unless they are given notice within the first three months of the 9th year of the contract. FUNDAZOO alleges that it received notice on March 5, five days too late.
MINAE has appealed the injunction and, in a press release sent Thursday, said that it has yet to go into effect.
The injunction specifically prohibits MINAE from “any action pertaining to the execution of the liquidation or separation of FUNDAZOO,” according to the court ruling. According to Bolaños, this prevents MINAE from conducting any future tests or inventory on zoo grounds.
Last week FUNDAZOO’s lawyer, Enrique Rojas, filed an official complaint after MINAE officials entered both zoos to take inventory of the animals. Rojas said that FUNDAZOO was never given notice of the visits, while Environment Vice Minister Ana Lorena Guevara told The Tico Times they sent notice weeks earlier.
This is not the first time MINAE has tried to get rid of FUNDAZOO. In 2004, at the end of the last contract, the state refused to renew the administration’s contract, but an arbitration court ruled in FUNDAZOO’s favor, based on a technicality.
Whatever the court’s final ruling, MINAE officials say that the zoo will convert regardless of the administration.
“Even in the improbable case that FUNDAZOO wins this case and does not turn the zoo over to the state, the truth is that they will not be able to have caged animals or replace any of their animals that die, and they will have to reintroduce any animals to the wild that are capable of living in the wild.”