About one third of all Costa Rican tree species and half of the country’s endangered species are found in Corcovado. The park is home to several endangered animals including the jaguar, ocelot, margay, squirrel monkey, giant anteater, crocodile, tapir, and harpy eagle. It also protects the nation’s largest population of threatened scarlet macaws. A large vegetative swamp serves as refuge for four species of sea turtles: the Olive Ridley, green, leatherback, and hawksbill.
Ambiguous land ownership is the root of many environmental problems in Corcovado. Adding to the complexity of overlapping authority from three different organizations, the area has been plagued by a “cut and run” response: much interest in the land at Corcovado comes from people with no long-term interest in living there, which leads to unsustainable use of the land, resulting in deforestation, water pollution, conflictive relationships between government staff and local people, and general socio-economic stress.
Until recently, the hilly terrain of dense, continuous forest has protected Corcovado’s natural resources by limiting accessibility. However, with the recent construction of roads, the area has been invaded by farmers, loggers, miners, and tourists. Deforestation for agriculture and timber poses the greatest threat to Corcovado. Gold mining has occurred in the Osa Peninsula for hundreds of years, yet it is only recently, with rising gold prices, better road access, and heavier machinery, that it has it posed a major threat to the park. Gold mining leads to water pollution and soil erosion, and as mining escalates, much of the park’s financial resources are diverted towards addressing this threat.
A Strategy of Success
From 1993 to 1995, the Parks in Peril program (PiP) worked with the leading conservation organization in Costa Rica, Fundación Neotrópica, to consolidate the management at Corcovado. PiP and Neotrópica worked to direct the government’s attention to the potential of Corcovado as an important protected area as well to the importance of addressing problems in the park. Upon site consolidation, Corcovado had an adequate system of protection consisting of 15 trained park rangers, several trained volunteers, a network of nine control posts, several field camps, and sufficient communications and transportation equipment.
Local participation was also enhanced, with communities contributing to patrols, field trips, and environmental education, all while expanding their awareness of the threats to critical natural areas. A local council was created which increased the involvement of surrounding farmer communities. Sustainable development activities were also promoted among local communities in the forms of sustainable agriculture, forest management, ecotourism, reforestation, and handicraft production. Local communities embraced environmental education and activities ranged from school presentations to field trips to cultural festivals. Local communities also became involved in the long term planning, decision-making, and management of the area, not just as representatives but also through direct involvement in sustainable development projects.
PiP also worked to improve the relationship between Neotrópica and the governmental organization, Conservation Area of Osa, demonstrating the feasibility of collaboration among governmental and non-governmental organizations. Beginning in 2000, after the conclusion of the PiP program, The Nature Conservancy began leading more conservation efforts in the Osa Peninsula.
Read more about Corcovado...
The Nature Conservancy in the Osa Peninsula
Online Field Guide to the Osa Peninsula
Read more about projects in Costa Rica...
Talamanca-Caribbean Biological Corridor
La Amistad International Park/Bocas del Toro
Costa Rica Partner Organizations