Miners, drug traffickers and loggers: Is Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park on the verge of collapse?

  • Extreme polarization about what’s going on in Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park has led to accusations of corruption, negligence, media manipulation, fights for control of the area’s management, and who does and doesn’t receive funds from international donors.
  • The park suffers from artisanal gold mining, hunting, logging and drug trafficking, but officials, scientists and NGOs have very different views on how badly these things are impacting the health of the park.
  • Some researchers say the populations of species like the jaguar and white-lipped peccary are on the decline, while others are optimistic about population trends and believe the park is healthy.
  • Dwindling staff and budget for basic resources like food and gasoline have made it difficult to adhere to the park’s protection plan, and there’s little consensus, even on very basic things, about what the future holds for the park.

News articles and opinion pieces have popped up in the pages of different Costa Rican newspapers over the past several years, warning of the imminent collapse of Corcovado National Park, one of the country’s most treasured protected areas. The park is in “agonizing” condition and “on a downward spiral,” some of the opinion pieces said. It’s “slowly dying.”

“In the case of Corcovado, if we don’t act quickly, the deterioration of wildlife populations could be irreversible in the medium term,” Eduardo Carrillo, a biologist at the National University of Costa Rica, wrote last year in the newspaper Semanario Universidad.

But other biologists, conservationists and park officials have scratched their heads at these kinds of comments, saying they’re not just overblown but completely outside reality. The park, in their eyes, is doing well. There are certainly issues that need to be addressed, but there’s nothing so grave as to warrant predictions of total collapse.

The extreme polarization over what’s going on in Corcovado National Park has led to accusations of corruption, negligence, media manipulation, fights for control of the area’s management, and who does and doesn’t receive funds from international donors. There’s little consensus, even on very basic things, about what the future holds for the park.

That could be a problem in the long run. The stakes are high in Corcovado. The park is believed to house approximately 2.5% of the entire world’s biodiversity — some 2,000 plant, 375 bird and 124 mammal species — all contained within around 45,000 hectares (113,000 acres) of primary forest and Pacific coastline.

 

Source: Miners, drug traffickers and loggers: Is Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park on the verge of collapse?