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Costa Rica, meaning “Rich Coast” in Spanish, is a beautiful and lush country in Central America. Nicaragua lies directly north of Costa Rica, Panama is to its south, to its west is the Pacific Ocean, and to its east is the Caribbean.

While Costa Rica is famous for its beautiful beaches, it’s also famous for its trailblazing efforts to help domestic animals and wildlife, and for its promise to increase the quality of the environment. What’s more, Costa Rica is home to five percent of the world’s plant and animal species — amazing that such biodiversity lies in just one place!

Between its bids to help homeless dogs and its outstanding ecotourism practices, it’ll be difficult to resist the urge to pack your bags and go to Costa Rica right now! But to entice you just a bit more, here are five additional reasons why Costa Rica rocks for people, animals and the planet.

Reason #1: It Closed Its Zoos

Over the summer of 2013, Costa Rica announced its plans to close both of the country’s public zoos by May 2014. The 97-year-old Simon Bolivar zoo and the Santa Ana Conservation Center will be shut down leaving the 400 animals free to live natural lives of their own. The animals able to roam on their own will be released back into the wild, while others will find relaxation and comfort at rescue centers and sanctuaries.

Rene Castro, the environment minister, revealed that the move was a way to encourage the public to interact with nature in botanical parks, “in a natural way.

Reason#2: Hunting For Sport Has Been Banned

In 2012, Costa Rica barred hunting for sport. Deputy Chairman of the legislative assembly, Victor Emilio Granadas, stated that the law would allow the people of Costa Rica “to live in peace with other living things.” He also said that the message he wanted to convey to future generations is that “an activity like sports hunting is not a sport, but a cruelty.”

Anyone caught hunting is liable for up to four months in jail and a $3,000 fine. Jaguars, pumas, and sea turtles are among the animals protected under the law.

Reason #3: The March Against Monsanto

The citizens of Costa Rica want Monsanto and its GMO crops out. Residents, environmental groups, and lawmakers are campaigning for a new bill that would place a moratorium on the introduction of GMO crops. This would halt the use of them and lead Costa Rica to what could be a future free of the dangers associated with GMOs.

Reason #4: Carbon Neutral By 2021

Through budgeting, lawmaking, the use of bio-fuels, clean energy, and by introducing the “C-Neutral” label, Costa Rica aims to be the first carbon neutral country in the world by 2021. The country plans on doing so by offsetting their carbon dioxide emissions. The “C-Neutral” label will certify that the CO2 emissions created by certain industry practices will be diminished.

You can download the former Environmental Minister’s presentation for the country’s carbon neutral goals here, from

Reason #5: The Blue Flag Ecological Program

The Blue Flag Ecological Program was designed to improve environmental awareness and to give incentives to hotels, the tourism industry, and coastal communities to help protect Costa Rica’s beaches. It has been in effect for 12 years and has been very successful in keeping Costa Rica’s beaches clean and beautiful.

Beaches are evaluated by the water quality of the ocean, drinking water, waste disposal, sanitary facilities, and involvement of the community in beach maintenance among other strict criteria.

Leading By Example

Costa Rica is the poster child for progressive change. Through its accomplishments, political standpoints, and goals, Costa Rica has opened up a world of possibilities for increased compassion toward animals and responsible environmental practices. The Costa Rican model is inspiring and it gives hope to American Animal rights activists and environmental activists who are also working toward a better tomorrow for people, animals, and the planet.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons