Kivú, the lion at San José’s Simón Bolívar Zoo, has to be relocated to the Santa Ana Conservation Center by November 7, the Environment (MINAE) and Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) ministries confirmed on Monday.
The ministries responded to an appeal filed by Fundación Pro Zoológicos (FUNDAZOO), the administrator of both the downtown zoo and the Santa Ana refuge, in an attempt to keep the lion where he is.
In a joint statement, the ministries stated that there is no viable legal or technical argument to justify keeping Kivú at the zoo. The document also says the ruling is final, and that no further appeals will be admitted.
With this decision, the government reiterates its support for a technical report released in September that stated that the 70-square-meter cage is unsuitable for the lion and that several parts of it, including the roof, are in a state of disrepair, placing Kivú at risk. It also noted that the cage prevents the lion from engaging in natural behavior, and lacks features that allow him to hide from visitors.
In yesterday’s decision, the ministries stated that the report, issued following an inspection of the lion’s cage, demonstrated “sufficient scientific basis and was issued by qualified professionals.” The inspection group included veterinarians, biologists and a lawyer.
The living conditions of Kivú, who has been at the zoo for 17 years, have long been subject to public controversy, criticism from animal welfare advocates, and legal battles.
On Sept. 7, ministry officials ordered the administration of the zoo to relocate the lion within two months to the Santa Ana Conservation Center.
The order also required that the administration prepare a more suitable home for Kivú, not a metal cage, at the Santa Ana refuge. The new space must meet international standards for keeping wildlife species in captivity; specifically, it must comply with all provisions outlined in the Lion Care Manual from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
FUNDAZOO claimed it had a renovation plan in place that would it allow it to keep the lion at the downtown zoo.
Yesterday’s ruling says that FUNDAZOO must comply with Costa Rican law, and that it is a government’s duty to overlook any site that manages wildlife. The joint statement from the ministries added that the two entities will continue supervising the implementation of the relocation order to ensure it is carried out.
The zoo declined to comment on the ruling.