The government of Costa Rica announced Monday that it will transform its two zoos into botanical gardens or urban parks in order to eliminate the practice of displaying caged animals.

Simon Bolivar Zoo in downtown San Jose, and the Santa Ana Conservation Center west of the capital, will be modified in response to "a change of environmental conscience among Costa Ricans," Environment and Energy Minister Rene Castro told a press conference.

The wide variety of creatures living in these zoos goes from birds and small mammals like monkeys and tapirs to large felines including jaguars and a lion to crocodiles and other reptiles.

Deputy Environment Minister Ana Lorena Guevara said she is working with animal-rescue organizations to relocate the specimens in these zoos and return to the wild those that are suitable.

If a home cannot be found for all the animals, the government will take charge of them through the National System of Conservation Areas.

Simon Bolivar Zoo, open to the public since 1921, will be transformed in May 2014 into a botanical garden for educational and research purposes, where many species of birds, small mammals, reptiles and other animals are expected to arrive naturally.

In the case of the Santa Ana Conservation Center, Castro said the government is working with the community to determine exactly what form the transformation will take.

Costa Rica, internationally recognized for its policies of environmental conservation, is a small country of 4.5 million people that is home to 4.5 percent of the biodiversity on the planet.

Some 52.3 percent of Costa Rican territory is covered by woodland and close to 30 percent of the country is maintained under the protection of national parks and forest reserves. EFE