"No cages," is how Environment Minister Rene Castro is describing the new policy, which will send animals either into the wild (the ones that can live there) or protected sanctuaries. Costa Rica has two public zoos, both of which will close next year.
Castro told a story to reporters to about how he came to a decision about freeing the animals, and how he opened the cage door of his heart.
"One day, we took the parrot out to the patio, and a flock of wild parrots passed, and the parrot went with them," he told reporters. "It made a big impression on me because I thought that we were taking good care of her. We fed her with food and affection. ... all these things that we as humans thought she liked. And when she had the chance, she left."
The Simon Bolivar Zoo in San Jose will become a botanical garden, while another zoo will become a park. Animal rights activists have long criticized the state of Costa Rica's zoos. But many zoo workers are concerned about whether some of the animals who have lived in the zoo will be able to acclimate to the wild.
Costa Rica, which prides itself on its biodiversity, has long banned hunting, and recently made illegal all circus performances that included animals.