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The Gap Year Blog

Biodiversity in Costa Rica

1 Jun 2020 15:35 PM


Costa Rica is one of the most exciting places for conservationists, providing a home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity. More than 250 species of mammals live in Costa Rica, while you can spot over 900 species of birds in this gorgeous Central American country.

It’s hardly surprising that so many animals can be found here, when the country has an amazing range of different eco-systems, ranging from beaches, volcanoes and forests, to waterfalls, caves, and river canyons.

Here are just a few of the creatures you might encounter when visiting Costa Rica:


White Faced Capuchin

These monkeys are one of four primates found and studied by Frontier in the Osa Peninsula.

This highly intelligent new world monkey is found in jungles in Central and South America. They are one of the most intelligent species of monkey and they also play a vital role in ecosystems by dispersing seeds from the fruit they eat. Their diet mainly consists of fruits and berries but they also eat insects, some plants and small creatures such as frogs.

White faced Capuchins are highly social and live in groups called troops. These troops usually consist of around 20 individuals, and each monkey lives between 15 to 20 years in the wild.



Mantled Howler Monkey

Mantled Howler monkeys are one of the largest species of new world monkeys ranging in height of 2 to 3 feet. Their social groups are very hierarchical and are usually made up of 10-20 individuals. They communicate using a variety of noises and calls.

These monkeys are famous for making loud howling sounds which gave them their name. Their howling call can be heard up to 3 miles away! If you compare that to other animals, that’s a bit less than lions roar (which can travel up to 5 miles) and much further than the bullfrog, whose call can be heard from half a mile away.



Poison Dart Frog

As the name suggests, these are poisonous frogs that sport bright colours to warn predators of their dangerous and deadly nature. This is called aposematic colouration, and they can be yellow, gold, copper, blue, green, red or black depending on the species.

These frogs may be small, but they are some of the most poisonous animals on earth. For example, the small golden dart frog has enough poison to kill 10 fully grown men! Their poison has been used for centuries by the indigenous Embera people in Columbia for hunting, who put the poison on their blow darts - hence the name poison dart frog.

Interestingly, poison dart frogs kept in captivity never develop poison. It is therefore thought they accumulate poison from plant matter in the systems of ants and insects that are their prey in the wild.



Scarlet Macaw

The Scarlet Macaws (Aro Macao) is a large rainbow coloured parrot, which can be recognised by its yellow, blue and red feathers. They are not yet endangered but are classified as near threatened on the ICUN red list of threatened species. This is because much of the forest where they live is has been cut down, degraded or fragmented. However, the main threat to the species is the pet trade.

Sadly, these magnificent birds are frequently taken out of the wild and sold as pets. If they are mistreated or not cared for properly, this can result in behaviour such as feather plucking and aggression. Feather plucking is a habit that begins when a bird is stressed and bored, and it can be hard to stop even when the bird is looked after and given better stimulation and a bigger enclosure. Plus, moving to a new environment may at first cause more stress and more plucking. Parrots that feather pluck are often kept behind the scenes at zoos as they rehabilitate.

Scarlet Macaws are found in tropical rainforests in South America including places like the Amazon, Guatemala, Panama, Bolivia Honduras, Peru, Paraguay and the tropics of Mexico. In the wild, they are a very social species and vocal communication is a vital part of their lives. During a recent study done by Frontier in Costa Rica, it was found that during most sightings of the species there were vocalisations as the Macaws communicated with one another in their group. They have been seen flocking in groups of up to 30 individuals.

These birds can live for a long time, reaching ages of up to 70 years old … that’s almost as old as humans!



Do you want to help protect these incredible creatures in Costa Rica? Join our conservation projects here. 


By Catrien Eagles, Research and Operations Intern 

Frontier runs terrestrial and marine conservationcommunity and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!