A multi-agency group of officials entered the Simón Bolívar Zoo on Monday morning and seized Kivú the lion to take him to what is now his new home at Zoo Ave, a private animal sanctuary located in Alajuela province.
The Environment Ministry (MINAE) said in a news release that the 18-year-old lion will live in a new special enclosure with plants, trees, a cave, various platforms and a pond, built in less than a month and following international standards.
“Kivú’s new home is a 300-square-meter (some 3,300 square feet) area away from visitors and surrounded by nature. After been exhibited for 18 years, he will no longer be on public display,” adds the news release.
Environment Minister Édgar Gutiérrez said the relocation operation was carefully planned.
“We were fully aware that it was a risky operation considering that Kivú is a geriatric lion with special conditions that could compromise his health,” he said.
The minister noted that they made the decision to relocate the lion along with officials from the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAG). “We took the risk with the only goal of giving Kivú a better quality of life,” he said.
The seizure operation began Monday at 8 a.m. and included officials from MINAE, MAG, MINAE’s Environmental Tribunal, the Presidency Ministry and UNA’s School of Veterinary Medicine. Observers from the Costa Rica’s Veterinary Medical Association, the Costa Rica’s Biologists Association and the Humane Society International, also participated.
Officers from the National Police, Traffic Police and the Judicial Investigation Police closed the zoo, monitored the seizure and prevented visitors’ entrance until the lion’s departure.
Experts from the National University’s (UNA) School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a series of tests and anesthetized the lion before moving him to an special enclosure and then to an ambulance truck from the UNA.
Officers from the Traffic Police and the National Police escorted the vehicle that left the zoo at noon and arrived at Zoo Ave one hour later.
Fundazoo, the administrator of the zoo, had repeatedly refused to abide by court orders to remove Kivú from public exhibition and relocate him to a better site, including the Santa Ana Conservation Center, a Fundazoo animal shelter.
Zoo officials argued that Kivú’s age and health conditions prevented him to leave his home at the downtown San José zoo.
Fundazoo officials declined to address the seizure operation.