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Costa Rica applies protection measures to wildlife by COVID-19

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The Minister of Environment and Energy, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, signed this Friday the Directive 003-2020 that orders the creation of temporary measures to regulate the interaction of researchers and their assistants with wildlife and staff of the Protected Wild Areas (ASP) ), following the national emergency by COVID-19.

The guideline –published in the official newspaper La Gaceta– makes Costa Rica the country that has quickly and timely applied measures to care for and protect the wildlife and national biodiversity present in its different habitats, within the framework of the global pandemic.

Rodríguez explained that with this guideline Costa Rica is acting responsibly and is proceeding under a precautionary principle, under the protection of the Biodiversity Law No. 7788 of April 30, 1998, which establishes and defines in article 11 the criterion o in dubio pro natura as follows: “When there is danger or threat of serious or imminent damage to the elements of biodiversity and the knowledge associated with them …”.

The Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, Pamela Castillo, highlighted that cases such as the Tigress in the United States that was infected with COVID-19, “is a wake-up call to be vigilant as a country in order to avoid a tragedy such as reverse zoonosis where contagion from humans to wildlife occurs. ”

Some of the measures established by the guideline are:

  • It temporarily suspends the admission to the ASP of researchers, their assistants or any other type of companion. In addition, it includes other sites where wildlife is present, either in its natural habitat (in free living conditions) or in wildlife management spaces (in captive conditions). This seeks to prevent the expansion in the degree of contagion of COVID-19.
  • Orders the Technical Office of the National Commission for the Management of Biodiversity (Conagebio) of the Minae and Sinac, to inform the researchers who currently have a valid research permit or authorization to access the genetic and biochemical elements and resources of the Biodiversity in force, which during the period of national emergency mentioned in this guideline, may not visit other sites where wildlife is present.
  • It instructs this office not to receive requests for access permits to the genetic and biochemical elements and resources of biodiversity, nor to grant new access permits that imply the entry of the applicants to the ASPs administered by SINAC, nor the visit to other places where find wildlife present.
  • SINAC will also not be able to receive applications or grant new research permits or scientific or academic collection licenses.
  • SINAC and Conagebio must prepare a contingency plan as soon as possible, in which specific actions are established and the necessary resources are identified to be able to attend to the situation described in the guideline in an expeditious and effective manner.

All these provisions are in force from now until June 1, 2020, without prejudice to being able to extend the term if national emergency conditions are maintained.

Exceptional cases are excepted, which must be duly justified and will be valued by Conagebio or SINAC, as appropriate.

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