The Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is a spectacular lowland primary rainforest, considered one of the finest parks in Costa Rica and a world-class biodiversity hotspot. Southwest Costa Rica, and neighboring Panama, provide habitat for numerous endemic and endangered animal and plant species.
Jeepney’s science guy Ian Austin visited the Osa Peninsula and the nearby Las Cruces Biological Station on the Pacific slope close to Panama this February. One objective was bird photography, with the stunning fiery-billed aracari – in the toucan family – at the top of the hope list. The group saw over 270 bird species in 10 days, but the aracari remained elusive. Two-hours waiting near a lek site yielded a gorgeous orange-collared manakin, a tiny bird only 3.5 inches long. The last hour, hope abandoned, an aracari flew in near Las Cruces.
Animals abound; 2- and 3-toed sloths, tapir, 4 species of monkey, coati, agouti, tayra weasel, and bats. And, of course, poison dart frogs. The howler monkeys announce day-light, and each other. A young female 3-toed sloth, making her once-weekly, and highly risky, trip to the ground provided an up-close encounter with the highly specialized, albeit very slow, sloth-moth-algae-fungi micro-ecosystem (nicely described in The Economist: Feb-01-14).
Researchers at Las Cruces, bordering Panama, are studying the effects of forest fragmentation and bird utilization of coffee plantations (funding by Oregon State and Stanford). In a rare piece of good news, coffee plantations, when interspersed with large fruiting trees, do appear to provide corridors for species to move between larger reserves.
The constant squabbling of scarlet macaws is one of the enduring sounds of the Corcovado National Park. More challenging is the squabbling over property development on the park boundaries. The Corcovado is one of the most amazing places on earth. It is worth visiting, and protecting.