Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor
AUTHOR: Jack Ewing
Birth of the environmental movement in Costa Ballena.
At the beginning of the last century, tapirs, jaguars, white-lipped peccary, red brocket deer, harpy eagles, giant anteaters, and others wandered freely through the forests in the area that today is known as the Costa Ballena and the Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor. The arrival of the first settlers began deforestation and the decimation of wildlife. It wasn't until the mid-1980s that the tide started to turn. Tropical rainforests were receiving international attention, and less than 25% of Costa Rica's forests remained.
Hunting was simply part of life in the few rural areas that still had some natural habitat. What little wildlife remained was pursued relentlessly by local hunters. Hacienda Barú was one of the few properties where hunting was prohibited and protected.
One Saturday afternoon in 1987, our dogs barked, announcing the arrival of visitors. They were four men who I knew to be avid hunters and not my friends. One assumed the role of leader and greeted me warmly.
"Don Jack," Eduardo began. "We're here to talk with you because now that the roads are improving, we're shocked to see all the outside hunters who come here and kill our wildlife. If we don't do something now, our children will never know what a paca, peccary, or great curassow looks like. These outsiders will kill them all". He indicated himself and his three friends. "We've all quit hunting and need your help to stop these newcomers. What can we do"?
"Let's see if we can organize a meeting," I suggested. "We're going to need support from the entire community if we expect to control the hunting." A meeting was scheduled for Saturday at 2:00 pm at the Dominical school. About 20 people showed up. Everyone was concerned and wanted to do something about hunting. We created an organization called Amigos de la Naturaleza de Dominical (ANADO), and all those present promised to report anyone who was hunting.
A couple of weeks later, two ANADO members watched while a hunter, parked in Dominical by the plaza, proudly showed off his guns and some animals he had killed, including a monkey and a sloth. One of the ANADO members went home, returned with his camera, and took pictures of the man, his guns, the dead wildlife, and his car. We filed charges against him, and to our surprise, the police discovered that he was an ex-convict and was wanted for armed robbery. With the photos as proof, he went to jail for four months and had all his guns confiscated. ANADO got all the credit and a reputation for being tough on poachers. Hunters quit coming to Dominical.
Two years later, our second membership meeting was attended by people from as far away as Uvita and Matapalo who wanted to join ANADO. We accepted them with open arms and agreed to change the name to ASANA.
The following year ASANA founded the Path of the Tapir Biological Corridor, intending to rewild much of the deforested area between The Los Santos Forest Reserve to the north and the Osa Peninsula to the south and connect the nature reserves, both public and private. Today The Path of the Tapir and the Costa Ballena is unique in that biodiversity is increasing. Since the beginning of the project in 1990, spider monkeys, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and pumas have all migrated across the corridor to Hacienda Barú, as have scarlet macaws, rufous-necked wrens, crested guan, Montezuma oropendola, and green ibis. Additionally, there have been sightings of Baird's Tapirs in the northern part of the corridor.
Ecological tourism is now one of the area's most important economic activities and sources of employment. We live in an extraordinary place, and everybody wants to see it.
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