Guarding the King of the Jungle on the Osa Peninsula

November 22nd, 2013

Like the lion or the tiger, the jaguar is the “king of the jungle” in the Americas. It is the largest feline in the Americas and the third largest in the world, notes Wikipedia. With a range extending from Southwestern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina, there are only an estimated 15,000 jaguars left in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

“The jaguar is still an abundant species, but is threatened by habitat loss and persecution,” notes a 2008 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “Due to loss of habitat, poaching of prey and fragmentation of populations across portions of the range, this species is considered to be ‘near threatened.’ If threats continue at the current rate, the species will likely qualify for ‘vulnerable’ status in the near future.”

This spotted cat most closely physically resembles the leopard, although it is usually larger and stockier, and its behavior is more similar to that of the tiger. Jaguars prefer dense rainforest for their habitat, but will range across a variety of forested and open terrains; they usually stay near water, and jaguars are noted for enjoying swimming like tigers.

In Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula is an important refuge for the jaguar. The large cats roam between the vast Corcovado National Park, the biological corridor of the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve, and the Piedras Blancas National Park. The biggest threat to the jaguar population is being killed by farmers, reported a 2011 article on jaguar conservation by the Tico Times. According to Eduardo Carrillo, biologist and director of the International Institute of Conservation and Wildlife at the National University (ICOMVIS-UNA) in Heredia, the conflict between farmers and jaguars has resulted from the loss of the wildcats’ natural prey.

“Much of the reason that jaguars enter farms to attack cattle is because sport hunting has diminished their principal prey and sources of food in protected areas,” Carrillo said. “People kill the principal prey of the jaguars and it leaves them without sufficient food. As a result, they leave the protected areas and kill cows and pigs, which results in the jaguars being killed by farmers. In Costa Rica, it is the principal cause of the decreasing population of jaguars.”

Wildlife conservation groups on the Osa Peninsula are actively trying to educate farmers and landowners located near national forests on how to protect their animals while also safeguarding the jaguars.

In Puerto Jiménez, Yaguará (the native word for jaguar) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization that protects wildlife, mainly wild cats. They work with the community and the National Parks system to study jaguars and ensure their survival and also for their prey throughout southern Costa Rica and northern Panama. Yaguará is experimenting with alternative strategies, such as a farmer compensation program when a wildcat kills an animal.

The organization has created an extensive network of infrared “camera traps,” which use motion detectors to capture on film anything that passes by the camera. Yaguará’s scientists use the information to study the Osa’s wildcat populations, especially those of ocelots, pumas and jaguars.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, across the Golfo Dulce from the Osa Peninsula, also has installed camera traps to record wildlife activity in their 165-acre private rainforest preserve. The Playa Nicuesa Reserve borders the Piedras Blancas National Park, which connects to the Osa Peninsula and Corcovado National Park, so it is feasible that they could capture on camera the same jaguars that roam the Osa.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sustainable lodge on the pristine Pacific coastline of the Golfo Dulce. The award-winning eco-lodge caters to travelers interested in ecotourism, nature and adventure. They offer family vacations, honeymoon trips, nature and adventure vacations, and yoga classes and retreats.

Article by Shannon Farley

Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is a fun eco-tour on Golfo Dulce, Costa Rica

November 11th, 2013

Just 10 minutes by boat from Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is a magical playground for animals at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary. The animal refuge is a popular eco-tour for Nicuesa guests.

Meet sloths, kinkajous, tayras, ocelots, peccaries and anteaters. Stand next to Scarlet Macaws perched on an almond tree. Watch white-faced monkeys swing and play, and have your heart melt when a spider monkey comes to hold your hand.

The sanctuary on the Golfo Dulce coast at Cana Blanca was originally an eco-lodge started by owners Carol Patrick and Earl Crews. Carol got a reputation for tending to injured animals, and soon locals began dropping off orphaned and injured wildlife until there was no time for guests. The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1996.

 

At first primarily an avian sanctuary, after Poppy the spider monkey arrived in 2003, all sorts of wonderful critters started showing up. The sanctuary is currently home to about 70 orphaned and injured animals that are indigenous to the southern zone of Costa Rica. Sadly, many of the animals are victims of illegal pet trade. Monkeys, wild cats, kinkajous, Scarlet Macaws and other prized creatures are captured as babies, and then abused or discarded once they reach adulthood when their owners don’t know how to deal with a wild animal. The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary works closely with the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) to rescue illegally-held animals.

Carol and her staff try their best to rehabilitate animals to release back into the wild. For each animal that enters the refuge, a complex and often unconventional playground, specifically designed to mimic its natural habitat, is created for housing. Same types of animals are put together when they can be. Environmental enrichment features – like species-appropriate toys, imitation streams with cascading water, and tree branches –encourage natural behaviors and prevent boredom.

The Osa Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-profit organization and relies on donations and tour fees to help with expenses like food, staffing, veterinary medical care, and supplies. Guided tours for visitors cost $25 per person and reservations must be made in advance.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, just down the Golfo Dulce Coast, offers its guests tours to the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is an environmentally sensitive eco-lodge set on a 165-acre private preserve. Like the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary, the Playa Nicuesa Reserve borders the lush rainforest of the Piedras Blancas National Park and fronts the pristine Pacific coastline of the Golfo Dulce. The award-winning eco-lodge caters to travelers interested in ecotourism, nature and adventure. They offer family vacations, honeymoon trips, nature and adventure vacations, and yoga classes and retreats.

Article by Shannon Farley

Planet, People & Peace Conference in Costa Rica in November.

October 10th, 2013

Sustainable businesses in Costa Rica and internationally will take center stage at the upcoming Planet, People & Peace Ecotourism Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Organized by the Costa Rica National Chamber of Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism (CANAECO), the conference will convene national and international leaders to share strategies, practices and experiences to help make tourism and businesses sustainable.

The 4th Planet, People & Peace (PPP or “P3”) Ecotourism Conference will be held November 3-6 in San Jose at the National Auditorium at the Children’s Museum, part of the Costa Rican Center of Science and Culture.

Speakers and guests from 14 countries will meet to exchange ideas on the future of sustainable tourism and how to operate businesses in an environmentally responsible way. Sustainable business, or “green business,” is defined by Wikipedia as an enterprise that has minimal negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy – a business that strives to meet the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profits.

CANAECO is a nonprofit private organization that brings together individuals and companies operating in ecotourism and sustainable tourism in Costa Rica. Established in 2003, it is the first national chamber in Central America that caters specifically to these sectors. Costa Rica has played an important role globally over the past decade in ecotourism and sustainable business. Many businesses in Costa Rica are already successfully incorporating sustainable practices, and will be on display during the PPP Conference.

Sustainable Tourism in Costa Rica

One of Costa Rica’s outstanding examples of sustainable tourism is Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, an environmentally sensitive eco-lodge set on a 165-acre private preserve in the undeveloped Osa Peninsula/Golfo Dulce region of the country’s South Pacific. The Playa Nicuesa Reserve borders the lush rainforest of the Piedras Blancas National Park, and fronts the pristine Pacific coastline of the Golfo Dulce.

Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge has received the highest rating for sustainability (Five Leaves) by the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT). The lodge embraces conservation and harmony with the natural environment and caters to travelers interested in ecotourism, nature, adventure and sports. A member of the prestigious Enchanting Hotels of Costa Rica, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is affiliated with the Rainforest Alliance, the International Ecotourism Society, the Costa Rican National Chamber of Ecotourism, and Sustainable Travel International, among others.


Article by Shannon Farley

Costa Rica’s Rich Biodiversity Reveals 5,000 New Species

October 7th, 2013

It is amazing, that in this day and age, scientists are still discovering completely new species of plants and animals in the world. You would think that everything had already been discovered.
In Costa Rica, for instance, recent reports reveal that 5,000 new species of animals and plants have been discovered and classified between 2011 and 2013. The finding is part of the country’s National Biodiversity Strategy (ENB in Spanish) for 2014-2020, which follows the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. Most of the new 5,000 species found are insects. The others include a few orchids, mushrooms, mollusks, fish, reptiles and birds.

In the world so far, scientists say they have identified between 1.5 and 1.8 million animal and plant species, about half of which are insects. Beetles are the largest group with 300,000 species. In comparison, there are only 4,500 species of mammals recognized on the planet. Costa Rica, although a tiny country occupying only 0.03% of the planet’s landmass, hosts more than 500,000 plant and animal species. Keeping with the world trend, Costa Rica has about 300,000 kinds of insects. (Anyone who has ever walked into a Costa Rican rainforest without bug repellent knows this!)
Scientists estimate there are probably roughly 8.7 million species existing on Earth, according to a 2011 study in the journal PLoS Biology, published by the Public Library of Science. The crucial point is that approximately 83% of those plant and animal species have yet to be discovered. Scientists calculate that there are probably 6.5 million species living on land, and 2.2 million in the ocean, but that 86% of land-inhabitants and 91% of ocean-dwellers are still roaming at large undiscovered, described or cataloged, reports the study.

At Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, you can see an abundance of plant and animal life. Located
on the Golfo Dulce next to the Piedras Blancas National Park, the award-winning eco-lodge features several unique ecosystems – primary and secondary rainforest, ocean and mangrove forest. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge offers nature and adventure tours, yoga classes and retreats, family vacations, and honeymoon trips.

Humpback Whales come to Costa Rica’s Golfo Dulce

October 7th, 2013

In southern Costa Rica, the tranquil blue waters of the Golfo Dulce stretch between the Piedras Blancas National Park and the Osa Peninsula. It is an area of pristine tropical wilderness and abundant wildlife. The Gulf’s calm jade green-blue surface makes it easy to see dolphins frolicking, sea turtles swimming, fish jumping out of the water, and marine birds diving for those fish. Starting in August, the Gulf gets even busier with visiting migrating Humpback Whales. Known as a tropical fjord, the “inner sea” of Golfo Dulce is a critical habitat for Humpback Whales and is vital to the species’ survival, according to the Center of Cetacean Investigation of Costa Rica (CEIC). Whales arrive annually to breed and give birth in the warm waters of Costa Rica’s South Pacific Coast, from the Ballena National Marine Park just south of Dominical down to the Golfo Dulce.


The annual migration of Pacific Humpback Whales is one of the most remarkable journeys by any creature on the planet. The marine mammals travel between 3,000 and 5,000 miles each way, from both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, making them one of the farthest-migrating animals on Earth. Northern Hemisphere Humpbacks travel from Alaska and British Columbia to Mexico, Hawaii and Central America, for the months of December to March. Southern, Antarctic-based Humpback Whales spend their winter months near Australia and as far north as Costa Rica from June to November. They are most likely to be seen in Costa Rica between August and October.
The southern whales are more common to see in Golfo Dulce, according to research by the CEIC. Females swim into the shallow waters of the Gulf’s interior to birth their young and breastfeed them. Males concentrate in the outer area of the Gulf waiting to breed with available females. The CEIC and other environmental organizations, including Earthwatch, are working to create a Marine Protected Area within Golfo Dulce to safeguard the whales’ reproductive and feeding grounds, and to establish buffer areas surrounding these critical habitats. “(There is an) urgent need to create connectivity between different marine protected areas to maximize the effectiveness in the protection of species and resources,” note CEIC researchers.
Humpback whales are an endangered species with international government-protected status. They are easy to see since they live at the ocean’s surface. They swim slowly and are known as the “acrobats of the sea” for their aerial frolicking. Humpbacks also are known for their “songs” – long, varied, and complex sequences of squeaks, grunts and other sounds. Only males have been recorded singing and they seem to produce the complex songs only in warm waters – thought by scientists, therefore, to be mating calls. Golfo Dulce also is home to important resident and migratory communities of Bottlenose Dolphins, Spotted Dolphins, Spinner Dolphins, and the occasionally seen False Killer Whales. Visit Golfo Dulce.
Stay on Golfo Dulce at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge, and see Humpback Whales and dolphins in person. The award-winning eco-lodge offers whale-watching boat tours of the Gulf to see marine life such as dolphins, sea turtles and whales. Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is located on a 165-acre private preserve bordering the Piedras Blancas National Park. A TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, the sustainable lodge is a unique adventure travel destination for its remote, pristine wilderness location.