The National System of Conservation Areas, part of the Environment Ministry, has informed Ponderosa Adventure Park in Guanacaste that it must make changes in order to comply with Costa Rican laws.
Alejandro Masís, director of the Guanacaste Conservation Area, told Teletica that the park — which houses African safari animals — must prevent wildlife from reproducing, stop offering feeding tours, and prohibit visitors from taking selfies with animals.
Failing to abide by these directives would result in legal action and the park’s potential closure.
“Any management site is exposed to the fact that, in the event of non-compliance with what the law and regulations, a closure may be reached,” Masís said.
Costa Rican law prohibits authorized zoos from conducting “rescue, reinsertion, reintroduction or reproduction of fauna,” according to SINAC. David Patey, owner of the park, says this further threatens the park’s giraffes, a vulnerable species.
SINAC asked Ponderosa Adventure Park to develop a “contraception plan,” which would include housing males and females separately.
Ponderosa could recategorize as a rescue center, Masís said. If it does so, it could allow its giraffes to reproduce — but it would be prohibited from exhibiting giraffes on public tours.
“The giraffe is endangered in Africa, and now also in Costa Rica,” Patey said.
Despite the apparent impasse between Ponderosa Adventure Park and Costa Rican law, SINAC-MINAE said it is “aware that all regulations can be reviewed, adapted and improved.”
“In a context as complicated as the one that the country and the world is going through, solutions based on nature … can contribute more to the socioeconomic development of the country with an adequate balance between the conservation and protection of wild fauna and the development of productive activities based on them,” the organization said.
A park that made history
Ponderosa Adventure Park, previously known as África Mía under a different owner and more recently as Africa Safari Adventure Park, celebrated the birth of its first giraffe in 2009.
“Roxi” became the giraffe born in Central America, and several others have since been birthed at the Guanacaste park, located about 10 km south of Liberia.
As local newspaper Voz de Guanacaste reported in 2016, “visitors enjoy the safari in open vehicles accompanied by professional photographers who document each visit. At the end of the tour, the photographs can be purchased.” Guests can also purchase carrots and feed the animals.
The park offers other adventure tourism activities, including kayaking and zip lining.