posted at 05:50
Author Name: Oscar Nunez
Leave that iguana in the jungle, expert tells Costa Rica
An iguana is seen in the National Biodiversity Institute on May 31, 2012 in Heredia, Costa Rica.San Jose - Thousands of parrots, monkeys, iguanas, toucans, turtles and other rainforest animals are kept as exotic pets in Costa Rica, a practice putting some species at risk, according to experts. The Central American country, famous for its rich biodiversity, won plaudits from conservationists two years ago for banning sport hunting in a pioneering move to protect wild animals. Aguilar's institute runs a shelter for wild animals in La Fortuna de San Carlos, a lush region in northern Costa Rica that draws large numbers of foreign tourists with its famous wildlife and tropical vegetation. The shelter takes in wild animals kept as pets that fall sick or are wounded by people, cars or electric shocks. "Costa Rican law forbids keeping wild species as pets, but the law isn't enough because there's a very deep-rooted custom. People don't realize that wild animals are not and cannot be pets," Aguilar told AFP in an interview ahead of the First Congress on Wildlife Rescue, Recovery and Freedom in San Jose. The underlying problem is that people are largely ignorant of the animals' diets, growth, life span, habitat, diseases and behavior. The illegal $20-billion-a-year trade has taken a major toll on Costa Rica's biodiversity, as animals are captured and sold abroad, Aguilar said. "It's important to make people understand that wild animals have to live in the forest, because they have different needs from domesticated animals," said Aguilar.

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