Activists seek to protect Costa Rica’s rich marine life by the Osa Peninsula

December 16th, 2013

Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is renowned by scientists, explorers and nature lovers as an astounding paradise of biological diversity. The southern Pacific Ocean off the Osa Peninsula is natural wonder of marine life, home to more than 25 species of dolphins and whales, four of the world’s eight different sea turtles, along with manta rays, sailfish, marlin, tuna and sharks. The southern Pacific, and especially Golfo Dulce (Sweet Gulf), are vital breeding and reproducing areas for endangered hammerhead sharks and migrating endangered Humpback Whales.

All of this rich marine biodiversity, however, is almost entirely unprotected, except for small areas around a few national parks – the Ballena Marine National Park off the coast of Uvita, the Caño Island Biological Reserve, and off the coast of the Corcovado National Park. Activists say the waters stretching along the entire coast of the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, need to be protected, and have begun a campaign to create aMultiple Use Marine Protected Area.” Led by Sierra Goodman, the founder of Vida Marina who guides marine tours and does research off the Osa Peninsula, the MPA for OSA group (Marine Protected Area for Osa Peninsula) states that Costa Rica’s marine life is in grave danger from commercial shrimp trawlers, long line fishing, over fishing, tuna nets, and ocean pollution.

“Commercial fishing techniques such as long lining, shrimping, gill netting and tuna fishing are wreaking havoc on this delicate and biologically diverse area and its marine inhabitants, and if urgent and drastic actions are not taken immediately, the world will lose this treasure forever. Costa Rica’s dolphins, whales, sea turtles and other marine flora and fauna are being decimated at alarming rates,” declares the MPA for OSA website.

The MPA for OSA group hopes that by declaring the southern Pacific Coastal waters, from the Ballena Marine National Park out to Caño Island and down the Osa Peninsula, a “Multiple Use Marine Protected Area” that private, commercial and sport fishing, as well as scientific research, tourism and marine transportation can all work together sustainably. The protected area would have a management plan, supervision and enforcement. The group also wants to create a Marine Education and Research Center.

According to the MPA for OSA, Costa Rica’s South Pacific is one of the “most biologically diverse ocean ecosystems in the world.” The reason is an immense habitat called the Costa Rican Thermal Convection Dome, where shallow warm waters lie on top of low-oxygen cold water, creating a perfect ecosystem for a great variety of marine life. The dome off the coast of Costa Rica is the only one in the world that is constant year-round, producing extraordinary ecologically-rich waters.

“Twenty years ago there were dolphins as far as the eye could see, and tuna everywhere. Today these monster factory ships have made Costa Rica’s ocean into an almost barren sea,” laments Osa Peninsula fisherman Fred Maschmeier on the MPA for OSA website.

The MPA for OSA has created a petition on Avaaz to ask the Costa Rican government to fast track the establishment of the marine protected area. The group is calling for an immediate moratorium on commercial fishing in the area while details are worked out. The group also has a crowd funding campaign to source funds to continue their research and get local communities and the government to work together.

When you stay at Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge on the Golfo Dulce, you can see and experience Costa Rica’s amazing marine life. We offer boat tours of the Gulf to see marine life such as dolphins, sea turtles and whales.

Located on a 165-acre private preserve backing up to the Piedras Blancas National Park, Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge is a unique adventure travel destination for our remote, pristine wilderness location. We offer family vacations, honeymoon trips, nature and adventure vacations, and yoga classes and retreats.

Article by Shannon Farley

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.