Costa Rica became the first Latin American country to ban hunting for sport on Tuesday, following a unanimous vote in the country’s parliament.
Hunters will now face up to four months in prison or a fine of up to $3,000 for violating the law. Additionally, lesser penalties take aim at individuals stealing wild animals or keeping them as pets.
The reform included exceptions for those hunting non-endangered species for food and indigenous groups hunting animals for survival or scientific research.
Costa Rica is home to hundreds of rare species, including jaguars, pumas, sea turtles, tapirs and several tropical birds. At least 25 percent of its land is protected as national parks or rainforest reserves.
Assembly president Victor Emilio Granadas praised the legislation for “allow[ing] us to live in peace with other living things that share our planet.”
“I believe this is a message we give to future generations, that an activity like sport hunting is not a sport but a cruelty,” Granadas said.
Arturo Carballo, a deputy director at the environmentalist organization Apreflofas, said the legislation will help end hunting tours.
“There is no data on how much money hunting generates in the country, but we do know there are currently clandestine hunting tours that go for about $5,000 per person,” Carballo said.
Environmental activist Diego Martin said he believes the legislation is about saving the country’s economy.
“We’re not just hoping to save the animals, but we’re hoping to save the country’s economy, because if we destroy the wildlife there, tourists are not going to come anymore,” Diego Marin told a local radio station.
Costa Rica’s president, Laura Chinchilla, signed the bill into law after the country’s parliament held a final vote on the initiative on Monday.