What the tropical nation of Costa Rica lacks in size, it more than makes up for in a wealth of biodiversity. Despite occupying just 0.03% of the planet’s surface, the region's lush forests are home to an incredible 500 thousand unique organisms -- representing over 4% of all the known species on Earth. For the hundreds of animals held captive in the country's zoos, however, that hotbed of life had been replaced by the cold bars of a cage.
But now, in a remarkable push to restore natural order for all its animal inhabitants, the Costa Rican government has announced plans to close its zoos, freeing creatures from their long captivity.
“We are getting rid of the cages and reinforcing the idea of interacting with biodiversity in botanical parks in a natural way,” said Environment Minister René Castro. “We don't want animals in captivity or enclosed in any way unless it is to rescue or save them.”
I like zoos, but I find my feelings are more and more mixed, the older I get. Plenty of zoos work hard to approximate their animals' native living conditions as best they can, which is certainly a vast improvement over the "big cage with walls painted to look like Africa" kind of thing I remember from when I was a kid. But now I'm wondering if even that is too much by way of captivity. (Places like Seaworld and Marineland? Fuhgeddaboudit.)
And what about aquariums? I doubt I'll ever lose my fascination with those, and I'm already really excited about a new, glittering aquarium that is set to open in Toronto later this year.
So...zoos? Aquariums? What are your thoughts on them?