Costa Rica has announced that it plans to close both of the country’s public zoos in May 2014 so that animals can be released from captivity.

Rene Castro, the Environment Minister revealed that the 97-year-old Simon Bolivar zoo in central San Jose, as well as  the Santa Ana Conservation Center would be shut down and the 400 animals would be released into the wild or sent to rescue centers.

“We are getting rid of the cages and reinforcing the idea of interacting with biodiversity in botanical parks in a natural way,” Environment Minister René Castro told the Costa Rica Times. “We don’t want animals in captivity or enclosed in any way unless it is to rescue or save them.”

Costa Rica’s move to shutter its zoos comes on the heels of other recent legislation aimed at protecting animals from a life in captivity. Earlier this year, India became the largest nation to ban the exploitation of dolphins, joining the ranks of Costa Rica, Hungary, and Chile.

Despite occupying just 0.03% of the planet’s surface, Costa Rica’s lush forests are home to an incredible 500 thousand unique organisms — representing over 4% of all the known species on Earth.

According to the Associated Press, Costa Rica banned circuses with animals in 2002 and has also barred sport hunting.

The U.S. has a loooong way to go!

Image Source: