Corcovado National Park

Corcovado National Park is a National Park on the Osa Peninsula in southwestern Costa Rica (9° North, 83° West), which is part of the Osa Conservation Area. It was established on 24 October 1975, and encompasses an area of 425 km² (263 mi²). It is widely considered the crown jewel in the extensive system of national parks and biological reserves spread across the country. The ecological variety is quite stunning. National Geographic has called it “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity”. Not only is the park very popular with tropical ecologists, a visitor can expect to see an abundance of wildlife. One should come well prepared though (see below).

The park conserves the largest primary forest on the American Pacific coastline and one of the few remaining sizeable areas of lowland tropical rainforests in the world. Logging usually takes place in lowland areas because those areas are more accessible and contain the largest and most economically valuable trees. But those habitats are also usually the richest in biodiversity. So even though still approximately half the tropical rainforests on Earth remain, what is left of the originally rich lowland tropical rainforests is usually too small to support the original natural biodiversity. Larger animals, especially, need a large habitat free of human activity. Unfortunately this means that even tourism, the economic incentive for Costa Rica and other developing nations to preserve and protect parks such as Corcovado, actually threatens the long-term biodiversity of the park.

Corcovado is home to a sizable population of the endangered Baird’s Tapir and even a small population of the very rare Harpy Eagle. The park’s rivers and lagoons are home to populations of both the American crocodile and Spectacled Caiman, along with Bull sharks. Corcovado is also one of the final strongholds of the Jaguar within Central America and several other felines are also present, including Ocelot, Margay, Jaguarundi, and Puma. All four Costa Rican monkey species can be seen within the park, including the endangered Central AmericanSquirrel Monkey, White-faced Capuchin, Mantled Howler, and Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey. Other mammals present include Two-toed and Three-toed Sloth, Collared Peccary, Northern Tamandua and Silky Anteater. Poison dart frogs and several species of snake (including the venomous Fer-de-Lance and Bushmaster) are also common within the park.

The abundance in wildlife can in part be explained by the variety of vegetation types, at least 13, including montane forest (more than half the park), cloud forest, jolillo forest (palm swamp), prairie forest, alluvial plains forest, swamp forest, freshwater herbaceous swamp and mangrove, together holding over 500 tree species, including purple heart (tree), poponjoche, nargusta, banak (tree), cow tree, espave and crabwood (tree). Another reason for the diversity (as with all of Costa Rica) is that it lies on a north-south corridor for flora and fauna; part of the “land bridge” and wildlife corridor that links the large continents of North America and South America.