In the early 1970’s a group of tropical biologists working on the Osa Peninsula waged a campaign to create a national park to protect what they realized was a place of global importance. With swift action by the Costa Rican government and conservation groups, Corcovado National Park was created in 1975.
Now encompassing one third of the peninsula, Corcovado is the crown jewel in Costa Rica’s park system. While this was a significant accomplishment, time is showing that this space is not enough to ensure the survival of the eco-system. Corcovado’s geological isolation limits genetic exchanges among different populations and inter-breeding becomes a more likely scenario.
The forests of the Osa Peninsula are home to an unbelievable array of wild life: 4,000 to 5,000 species of vascular plants, including more than 700 of which are classified as trees, many of them endangered. Biologists estimate that 2/3 of the flora of the Osa exists nowhere else on earth. One study found that the forest was in natural balance which means that no single species of plant or tree dominates any other. This is a clear sign of a robust and healthy ecosystem.
The main objective of The White Hawk Foundation is to keep it that way. The animal life is as varied and abundant as its flora. Just as with plants, many of the animals found on the Osa Peninsula are found nowhere else in Central America. The Osa is home to more than 375 species of birds-18 of which are endemic, 124 species of mammals, 40 species of freshwater fish, and 117 species of reptiles and amphibians and 8,000 species of insects. The Osa Peninsula represents 50% of all species in all of Costa Rica. Most significantly, the Osa is home to the largest colony of scarlet macaws and the largest population of squirrel monkeys in all of Central America. Large cats such as jaguars, pumas, and ocelots survive here and Corcovado is one of the few places left in the world where the tapir still roam.
Even though scientists from around the world have been interested in preserving the biodiversity of the area for over 30 years, it is still an endangered area. The white-faced peccary, which is the main food source for the jaguar, is in decline as is the majestic jaguar itself. Government funding varies from year-to-year and both human and monetary resources are limited and usually inadequate. Therefore, private funds are and will be necessary to support these critical ecosystems.
This year’s Living Planet report reveals a startling loss of biodiversity around the world. The report states that there is a loss of 30% of biodiversity on average. This means a major decline in the number of different species of plants, animals, and other organisms …tropical species have declined by 60% since 1970…this is a long term problem. This is the earth for millennia …. This is Costa Rica- more specifically, the Osa Peninsula.
Even with public funding and improvements in management systems, Corcovado could not maintain its high level of biodiversity. The area is too small and too isolated. Ensuring that there is a functioning land bridge (biological corridor) where wildlife can roam and genetic exchanges among populations can continue is fundamental to preserving the region’s biodiversity The biological corridor must be extended in all directions….
Time is not on the side of the conservationist as there is still an attitude that natural resources can and should be exploited for short term-financial goals. Immediate steps must be taken to preserve the properties and undertake scientific research and monitoring to ensure that activities are well-targeted and effective.
The White Hawk Foundation would fit into this category as the lands border Corcovado National Park. Whereas, Costa Rica was foresighted in establishing their conservation systems, it no longer has the national funds to support them, let alone add to the corridors which are needed. This is in part due to the fact that the more that is known, the more precious this area becomes in terms of its immense biodiversity.
More than 50% of all the biodiversity in the world is in a belt 10 degrees above and below the equator, and Costa Rica falls within that belt. Carate Beach is the longest stretch of lowland tropical rainforest left in the world; you can literally walk for two and a half days without seeing a physical structure.
While Costa Rica comprises only .01% of the earth’s landmass, it is home to 5% of the planet’s biodiversity. Breaking it down even more, within Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula provides a pristine habitat to more than half of all the bird, butterfly, mammal and plant species found in the country.
In other words, if you want to see 2.5% of the planet’s flora and fauna species during one trip, head to the Osa Peninsula!