COSTA RICA - FOREST & TURTLES

Project Goals 

To improve knowledge and understanding of the wildlife of the Osa Peninsula, especially in relation to 
the conservation status of key species and the effects of human activities on biodiversity. To improve 
the conservation of nesting turtles on beaches that are not officially protected.

Project location

Piro, Osa Peninsular, southwest coast of Costa Rica

Activities 

Surveys of the abundance and diversity of primate species in primary vs secondary forest;
Studies into the effects of climate change on amphibians (leaf litter and swamp dwelling);
Studies of the territorial behaviour and population density of neotropical otters (Lontra Lungicaudis
   in the Piro area;
Turtle patrols along two beaches, Playa Piro and Playa Pejeperro, with the aim of reducing illegal 
   poaching and monitoring turtle population trends;
Replanting of a previously cleared area of forest, helping to restore it to its former natural state.

Background 

Costa Rica lies between Nicaragua and Panama in Central America. It forms part of the Mesoamerica
Biodiversity Hotspot and supports an extremely high level of diversity of plants and animals, including 
many threatened and endemic species. Despite representing just 0.03% of the world’s land mass, 
Costa Rica supports 4.5% of its bird and plant species.

Almost 25% of Costa Rica’s land has now been afforded some kind of protection and it has seen a 
rapid rise in the ecotourism industry over the past few decades. Loss of habitat and biodiversity will 
therefore be detrimental to the country’s economy as well as to its ecosystems and the services those 
provide to the community. But rapid population growth (2.6% per year) casts some doubt over how 
sustainably the country’s resources will be used in the long-term.

Threats to Costa Rica’s biodiversity include climate change and habitat fragmentation. The latter is the
result of habitat loss in unprotected areas, which causes reserves to become increasingly isolated from 
one another. Such fragmentation of habitat into ‘islands’ can lead to a reduction in the genetic diversity 
of some species (because cross breeding is reduced) and can also have a negative impact on species 
that need to migrate (whether as part of their breeding patterns or in response to environmental 
changes). Habitat corridors linking protected areas can thus be as important for wildlife conservation 
as the reserves themselves.

SEE’s Costa Rica project was established in mid-2009 and is situated on the southern tip of the Osa 
Peninsula, on the southwest coast of Costa Rica. The Osa Peninsular has a population of around 
12,000 people, distributed in small scattered settlements, and is host to a wide array of fauna, 
including several primate species (squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys and capuchin monkeys); birds 
(including scarlet macaws, and various species of herons and egrets); big cats (pumas, jaguars); 
otters and reptiles. SEE’s project site is surrounded by both primary and secondary forest and is close 
to pristine beach habitat and to the Corcovado National Park.

Our Costa Rica project is focussed on studying the effects of human activities, both on general 
biodiversity and on the conservation status of some important individual species. We are working with 
local NGOs to survey and protect nesting turtles on two local beaches (Playa Piro and Playa Pejeperro) 
and to restore an area of forest that was previously cleared for teak plantations. 

Achievements

To date, SEE’s Costa Rica project has recorded over 400 turtles (Olive Ridley, Lepidochelys olivacea
and Pacific Green, Chelonia mydas agassizii); carried out the first inventories of reptile, amphibian and 
bird species in the region (which are ongoing); and completed a study on the use of sea shells by 
hermit crabs. In addition, we are currently monitoring the population density and territorial behaviour 
of the neotropical otter, Lontra longicaudis, which is listed as ‘data deficient’ and ‘population declining’ 
on the 2010 IUCN Red List. 

SEE also spent several years working to protect wildlife and habitats in neighbouring Nicaragua

Project partners & staff

Our partners in Costa Rica include:
Osa Conservation (a local NGO founded in 2003 to protect the Osa Peninsula's biodiversity)
ASCONA
(a local conservation NGO based in Puerto Jimenez)
Corcovado Foundation

Our Costa Rica field team is comprised of a Principal Investigator, a Project Coordinator, several 
Research Officers and a team of voluntary Research Assistants.