Sunday, 23 November 2008

Gulfo Dulce and Osa Wildlife Sanctuary

Today we took a boat tour on the Gulfo Dulce with a boat run out of our hotel at the Cabinas Jimenez.

The main highlight of the day was a visit to the Fundacion Santuario Silvestre de Osa (or Osa Wildlife Santuary). The only way to access the reserve is by boat. As we sped across the gulf to the sanctuary we saw a small pod of dolphins feeding. It is the first time that I have seen dolphins in the wild. Unfortunately they weren’t very playful and didn’t approach the boat as they were too busy eating breakfast.

The Osa Wildlife Santuary is a 750 acre reserve on the north eastern section of the Gulf. It is run by a mature American couple who moved there about 18yrs ago (if my memory is correct) and are supported by about 10-15 researchers, conservationist and volunteers at any one time.

In addition to protecting the reserve and making it a welcoming place for animals they act as a rescue and rehabilitation centre for injured and confiscated animals (from the illegal pet trade or people keeping wild animals as pets).

The tour of the reserve takes a 2hr loop through part of the forrest, starting and ending on the beach where the boat drops you off. The tour is very informative as the couple give you a lot of information on the animals, how they arrived at the resrve and how they are being rehabilitated.

All the way round the tour we were accompanied by three (rescued) juvenile spider monkeys who are freely roaming. It is hoped that the monkeys will join a wild troop once they reach around 6yrs old, but until that time they seem to prefer to stay near to the researchers and enjoy human interaction. I asked if it is good for them to be so close to humans? At their age a wild troop wouldn’t have them and they would die with no mother to feed them milk. Being social animals there is no alternative but for humans to form their troop.

After the beach, the first stop on the trip was to see some scarlet macaw parrots. There are a pair being looked after at the moment, neither of which can fly, having had their feathers damaged when they were young. Beautiful creatures to see up close (which have had their natural populations devastated in Costa Rica by poaching for the pet trade), also a little scary to be so close to their awesomely powerful beaks. If they fancied taking off your finger, there would only be one winner.

We also saw Peccarie (a Costa Rican wild boar) who emit a foul smelling spray to mark their territory and have been known to kill and eat humans in the wild!

Rescued white faced Capochin monkeys who are kept in a cage as they would be rejected and killed by the wild troops in the reserve should they be released.

Sloths, whose hearts only beat 11 times per minute, eat poisonous leaves and move in a slow graceful movement.

Toucans with their graceful long beaks, but are apparently a very aggressive bird.

Green parrots.

They have cats on the reserve but you don’t seem them on the tour as they are trying to keep them afraid of humans to give them a better chance of survival once released.

I did a Google seach for the Wildlife Sanctuary and came across a couple of forums where some have criticised the reserve and their approaches to rehabilitation. However, I come away with an overwhelmingly positve impression of the reserve. The couple are clearly a little bit maverick and have learnt through their experiences of dealing with different animals, but seem to have found approaches that work.

If you ever visit the Osa Peninsula I would definitely recommend a trip to the reserve. It was the highlight of the holiday for me and I learnt more than I am able to express in a single blog post.

1 comment:

  1. Richard,

    Nice post. We are returning to the Osa in a few weeks and are thinking about visiting the sanctuary. I too have read some online reports that were less than positive. Thanks for posting an objective viewpoint.