Corcovado’s Biodiversity Hotspot

After reading travel forums, remembering about documentaries on Nature, the National park of Corcovado was one of my « Must Visit » destination in Costa Rica. Despite its relative difficult access, I went there to enjoy its unique wildlife for few days.

History of the Park

In 1930, the United Fruit Company left the Atlantic lands and moved to the Pacific plantations. At the same year was discovered the gold in Peninsula de Osa. Both event brought the migration to the zone. Subsistence economy passed to be commercial economy, and because of the increment of the population, the deforestation for the opening of farms and the exploitation inside the Park through the oreros was increased.
With the personal support of the former president, a visionary group succeeded in attracting consideration for the protection of the Corcovado remarkable natural area. In 1971, the national park was established, getting little by little administrative power.

Outstanding resources


Le Tapir, enfin vu au Corcovado, Costa Rica

Le Tapir, enfin vu au Corcovado, Costa Rica

The National Park Corcovado was created in 1971. The extension of the park is 47945 ha (of which 12% is marine). This Park has places where the human being have not touch it yet, which gives more possibilities for the existence of many species that need pristine and untouched ecosystems to survive. Around 375 species of birds (18 are endemic), 124 mammals (more than 50 of them are bats), 40 species of river fish, 8000 insects, 71 reptiles and 46 amphibians are found inside the park and in the Osa Peninsula in general. 80% of the forest remains untouched, a primary rainforest. The Osa Peninsula contains no less than 2,5% of the world biodiversity, which is of one of the world highest density of species.

The high level of endemism is supposedly due to tectonic movements (collision point of three tectonic plates) that rose up the Corcovado « island », which became nowadays the Osa Peninsula.

From the mammals that are endangered, the park has 11 of them: Tapir (Tapirus bairdii), squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedii), Jaguar (Pantera onca) and the Giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactila). The Scarlet macaw (Ara macao) count more than 2000 individuals, which is the biggest population in all Central America.
Big bull sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) swim to river mouths looking for foos during high tide and jaguar populations gets important densities taking advantage of the healthy marine resources like turtles. In the Punta Salsipuedes, tropical rainforest and coral reefs are just separated of few meters. The ocean around Corcovado and Golfo Dulce are breeding and reproduction areas for the humpbacks whales (Megaptera navaeangliae). The existence of the Harpy eagle (Harpia harpia) is confirmed, a critically endangered species, whereas it was considered extinct from Corcovado since 1989. The same for the Giant anteater. With the Scarlet macaw, the Jaguar and the Tapir, they are the most emblematic (and rare) species of the wildlife richness of the Park.

For more pictures of flora and fauna, visit the Facebook page album



corcovado-mapDespite its very elitist access fee (prepare your own wallet to pay multiple « services »: 15$/day park entrance fee, 4$/night camping, at least 50$/day for the compulsory guide, you CAN READ this post about how expensive will be your experience in Corcovado), its relative remoteness from main roads, and access limitations, nature tourism is increasing. There are three main entrance to the Park. The most popular and easy is from Carate where visit more than 38000 visitors a year.
Inside the park there is only a place to stay overnight: biological station of La Sirena. There you could find a low-key wooded and old buildings for accommodation on the border of the air strip. You could camp on the floor, in your tent or out with a necessary mosquito net. There is also dorms especially dedicated to scientists but because of hard maintenance, it is about to be removed, to keep the place as simple as possible.
In parallel of the removal of infrastructures inside the park, tourism and development programs are supported within several buffer areas and rural communities. With the support of the Corcovado Foundation, rural community tourism projects are developed in Drake, los Patos, San Pedrillo, etc. Some of them are opening trails outside of the park (where you could see almost the same wildlife as in the park… without making a hole in your wallet!). Good to know!
These projects aim to give new eco-friendly opportunities for the communities living close to the protected area, so that they progressively stop to develop illegal activities within the park like logging, hunting and overall gold mining.
Once, the administration intended to gain the UNESCO’s recognition by applying to the World heritage list. Because of lack of ecological and administrative coherence, it was rejected and the project abandoned (whereas, according to me, the site would represent a very interesting and logical world heritage site for the tropical rainforest and ecosystems).

Major Threats

According to Eliecer Arce, Director of the National Park, the Corcovado’s wildlife faces three main obstacles for its future:

  • Biological isolation: with the complementary effect of climate change (which obliges flora and fauna to go up in altitude) and infrastructure development (like roads), the Corcovado area located at the bottom of the peninsula is getting isolated from the other protected areas in mainland. Flora and fauna will have to adapt to the changing ecological conditions, or will disappear.
  • Gold Mining: Gold exists in the Eastern side of the park. Even if it is prohibited, illegal activities still exist.
  • Hunting: as a traditional subsistence activity of rural communities, illegal hunting still occur in some parts of the park. But the most predominant is hunting on animals that move temporarily out of the park.

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