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The Gap Year Blog

5 Best Species To See In Costa Rica

11 Jul 2016 11:20 AM
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Howler-Monkeys

Flickr | Brian Gratwicke

Howler-Monkeys can make a first-timers visit to Costa Rica sound quite terrifying but these monkeys are peaceful herbivores and other than the fact that they use an effective strategy of defecating from the treetops onto people who bother them, there isn’t really any reason to be afraid of them. There are nine species of Howler Monkey and Costa Rica is home to the Common Mantled Howler which can be found inhabiting areas in Southern Mexico, Central and South America. Howler-Monkeys are the largest of the monkey species and the low rumbling growls that gave them their name can travel up to five kilometers so you shouldn’t be surprised if these monkeys become your wakeup call during your stay in Costa Rica. Despite their name and reputation though, the Howler Monkeys are able to pass by incredibly quietly and it is entirely possible for there to be one travelling above you without you even knowing it!

 

Puma

Frontier | Taken near project camp in Costa Rica

Pumas, also referred to as Cougars and Mountain Lions, exist as 6 distinct subspecies and are widespread across Canada and North & South America. One such subspecies, the Costa Rican Cougar, is the second largest cat in Costa Rica after the Jaguar. This illusive species usually hunts at night in the tropical forests, feeding on small rodents, birds, and fish and have even been recorded hunting monkeys in trees (however not very successfully). Costa Rican Cougars are not limited to the forests either as a common trait of all Puma species is their high adaptability. Pumas can thrive in habitats ranging from elevated mountain regions to open grassland, and even arid desert landscapes. Their adaptability has resulted in the IUCN classifying them of Least Concern despite human development decreasing their habitat. Pumas are hunted in North America and wherever else permitted across their range, yet Costa Rican Cougars are relatively safe due to the plight of the Jaguar, which is unfortunately more sought after by hunters.

 

Coatimundi

Flickr | Bernard DUPONT

Coatis are nocturnal members of the raccoon family. They are typically reddish brown with dark faces and long tails. The White-nosed Coatimundi is one of Costa Rica’s 200 mammal species and due to its similar shape and size; it is often mistaken for a raccoon or house cat. In contrast to these counterparts however the Coati has a long pointed snout that makes the species well adapted for searching the ground for insects. The mammal is at home both on the ground and in the treetops and it is surprisingly brave, meaning that the chances of spotting this bizarre raccoon are relatively high. The Coatis most impressive aspect is its fascinating defense technique. When attacked, the Coati raises itself on its hind leg, places its tail between its legs and waves it in front of its face. When the predator attacks the tail, the Coati has the chance to attack using its sharp claws giving it a unique advantage against its attacker!

 

Three-Toed Sloth

Flickr | Magnus Bråth

Costa Rica is home to two species of sloths: the three-fingered and two-fingered sloth. The three-fingered sloth is more active during the day than the former species and so you’re much more likely to see this sloth while in Costa Rica. Both species of sloth are built for life in the trees and as such they spend nearly their entire lifetime hanging from the branches using their powerful grip and long claws. The sloth is most famous for being incredibly slow, in fact it moves so slowly that algae has time to grow on its furry coat, providing it with extra camouflage in the trees of Central and South America. While they are slow but strong in the trees, sloths are incredibly clumsy on land but have been proven to be excellent swimmers and it has been reported that some sloths fall directly into rivers from the treetops before moving efficiently through the water. Three-toed sloths are one of the few mammals to possess the unique extra neck vertebra which allows them to turn their head 270 degrees.

Leatherback Turtles

Flickr | Jeroen Looyé

Leatherback Turtles are the largest of all of the sea turtle species. Their name derives from their unique shell which is composed of a layer of thin, rubbery skin that is strengthened by thousands of tiny bone plates that gives it the leathery look that it is famous for. Unlike the other turtle species that have hard shells, the Leatherback turtle is therefore unique with its softer shell. Interestingly, despite their large size, the Leatherbacks survive almost entirely on a diet of jellyfish due to the fact that their delicate jaws that would be damaged by anything other than a diet consisting solely of soft-bodied animals. This turtle species spends most of its time in deeper waters, has huge migration patterns and only really comes ashore to nest. However, despite their general elusiveness, an encounter with one of these majestic creatures in Costa Rica can be deemed to be safe and more importantly, mesmerizing.

 

For your chance to see some of these amazing animals, check out our projects in 
Costa Rica 

 

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

 

 

By Shannon Clark -  Online Journalism Intern