By Jack Ewing
Years ago, our water flowed down the mountain and over the road through a plastic hose. Taking the water over the road saved us the trouble of digging a trench through the hard rocky surface.
Though unintended, it also created the first animal crossing on Hacienda Barú. Over the years, we observed not only monkeys, but also kinkajous, olingos, opossums, and anteaters safely crossing the road on the pipe.
When the construction of the new highway, the Costanera Sur (Pacifica Fernandez), became a reality, I remembered that water pipe.
Concerned about the impact of a wide, high-speed highway on the wildlife at Hacienda Barú National Wildlife Refuge, we petitioned the highway department (MOPT) to incorporate tunnels and bridges into construction plans.
A total of 21 square tunnels were built under the highway and four bridges over it.
By using trail cameras and by monitoring animal tracks we have verified that 12 species, including peccaries, pacas, coatis, raccoons, agoutis, ocelots, pumas, opossums, anteaters, armadillos, monkeys, and iguanas use the tunnels; and monkeys and kinkajous use the bridges.
The wildlife started using the tunnels immediately, but it took the monkeys a year to learn to use the two shortest bridges.
Not until February of 2015 did they start using the longest, 63 meters from one side of the road to the other.
Both types of crossings are viable options for decreasing the number of animal deaths on Costa Rica’s highways.
INFO: Hacienda Baru – http://www.haciendabaru.com