Animal rights activists in Panama are applauding a decision by the government's ANAM environmental agency to prohibit the importation of wild animals for use in circuses and shows.

Though approved last month by ANAM, Resolution 149 was not published until this week.

The new regulation "is an enormous joy and one more demonstration that Panama is maturing in the matter of respect, conservation and protection of animals," Karina Bazan, president of the Angels of the Animals Association, told Efe.

Lawmaker Victor Juliao, known for his sponsorship of legislation to protect animals, also hailed the move.

"Panama joins several countries in the region that already have a similar regulation," he said in a statement.

Resolution 149 bans the entry into Panama of wild animals as part of "circuses, shows, exhibitions, entertainments, audience interactions and similar events."

Fines for violations of Resolution 149 range from $1 million to $10 million.

The new rule does not apply to zoos or animal-rescue facilities.

Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Colombia, Costa Rica and El Salvador are among the Latin American nations that have instituted comparable restrictions in recent years. EFE