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Wild Costa Rica

- Photo via Prosecutor's Office for Wildlife Conservation Unit. -

Wild animals rescued from captivity

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Published on Monday, April 8, 2024
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


Agents from the Prosecutor's Office for Wildlife Conservation Unit rescued one porcupine and one emu that were kept in captivity on private property in San José Province.

Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum) are big arboreal rodents with spiky coats from which they get their name. They live in woods and forested areas from North America to the northern region of South America. They have robust bodies, blunt, rounded heads, fleshy, movable snouts, and coats of cylindrical, or flattened spines. 

The emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) is a flightless bird native to Australia. It is the second tallest living bird, behind only the ratite, an African species. The bird has soft brown feathers, long necks and legs, and may reach a height of 6 feet 3 inches. They are robust bipedal runners who can cover long distances and sprint at speeds of up to 30 mph. They are omnivorous, feeding on a wide range of plants and insects.

The authorities report states that the investigation started with a complaint regarding exotic animals kept in captivity on private property in Tarbaca District, Aserrí Canton.

During the investigation, police witnessed both animals in a corral. Following a brief inquiry, they confirmed with the homeowner that the animals were kept as pets.

Because the emu is not an endemic bird in Costa Rica, officials suspected the animal had been smuggled in by the owners.

Both animals were rescued and taken to an animal rescue center run by the National Service of Animal Health (SENASA), a state-owned agency in charge of monitoring, regulating, and certifying animal and plant products, as well as preventing, eradicating, and controlling diseases and plagues that affect them.

Agents filed a complaint with the Public Ministry against the property's owner, alleging the crime of wild animals that have been kept in captivity. However, that person was not arrested.

Hunting wild animals or keeping them captive is illegal in Costa Rica. People found guilty of keeping wild species in captivity may face a fine ranging from $600 to $26,000 or potentially a one to three-year jail sentence under Wildlife Conservation Law No.7317.

Authorities stated that anyone can lodge anonymous complaints about wild animals that have been hunted or kept in captivity by calling line 1192.

Recently, Border Police officials rescued one white-tailed baby deer that was kept in captivity in Guanacaste.

Last year, park rangers rescued an emu bird that was wandering through a palm plantation area in Puntarenas Province.



What have you heard from people who keep wild animals in captivity in your community? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to

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