Published on June 25th, 2013 | by Erin Raub1
3 More Endangered Animals to See in Costa Rica
For nature lovers, birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts, an endangered animal spotting in the wild almost always makes the bucket list. But endangered animals are, well, endangered and can therefore be difficult to sight, even in their natural habitat.
That’s where Costa Rica steps in. This Central American nation is home to more than 250 endangered plant and animal species, from the ones you’ve never heard of (like the pristimantis rain frog) to ones you’ve always dreamed of (jaguar, anyone?). In our first installment of the “easiest-to-spot” endangered species in Costa Rica, I introduced you to the green sea turtle, Central American squirrel monkey, and American crocodile. Now it’s time to discover three more endangered species that you have a good chance of sighting in their natural habitats, right here in Costa Rica.
4. Resplendent Quetzal
In a country famous for birdwatching, special accolades go to the resplendent quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno), one of Costa Rica’s most sought-after creatures. This jewel-toned bird is often referred to as the most spectacular in the New World, and for good reason: with a ruby-red chest and emerald-green wings and back, resplendent quetzals are the treasure of the cloud forest. Adult males are about 14 inches long, not including their streamer tail – wispy green feathers that can grow up to 30 inches long to attract females during mating season.
IUCN Red List:The resplendent quetzal was first classified as near threatened in 2004, but populations continue to decline nearly 10 years later. Pharomachrus mocinno cannot reproduce in captivity, so habitat loss is a serious threat to the species.
Resplendent Quetzals in Costa Rica: Resplendent quetzals inhabit the country’s cloud forests, traveling Costa Rica throughout the year. You can spot quetzals year-round, but your best chances are in Monteverde (March-May) and San Gerardo de Dota (December-May).
5. Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey
Also known as the black-handed spider monkey, Geoffroy’s spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroi) are long and slender, packing only 13-20 pounds onto their 25-33 inch frames. They are extremely social – you can hear them hooting and hollering to each other from more than half a mile away! Spider monkeys have endearing features, lanky arms, and graceful prehensile tails that allow them to swing effortlessly from tree-to-tree – a must for primates that live in the forest canopy!
IUCN Red List: There are seven subspecies of Ateles geoffroi, and all are listed as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. As a whole, Geoffroy’s spider monkey is classified as endangered.
Spider Monkeys in Costa Rica: Despite their endangered status, spider monkeys have made Costa Rica their playground. Sizeable populations live in Tortuguero National Park, Corcovado National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, and Monteverde’s private reserves.
5. Baird’s Tapir
What looks like an elephant crossed with a rhinoceros, but is more closely related to a horse? A Baird’s tapir, of course! This mammoth mammal weighs in at 500-880 pounds and can grow up to 6 feet long and 4 feet tall, making them the largest land mammal in Central America. Baird’s tapirs have dark, coarse fur and are herbivores, but they’re fierce – this solitary animal can best an American crocodile in a fight!
IUCN Red List: Habitat loss and hunting have whittled down Baird’s tapir populations, classifying the mammal as endangered. There are about 1,000 individuals living in Costa Rica today, and conservation efforts are working to further resuscitate the population.
Baird’s Tapirs in Costa Rica: This mammal is one of the hardest to spot on our list, but you’ll have a good change on the Osa Peninsula, near Corcovado National Park. There, a Baird’s tapir conservation project works to restore the population. More than a dozen tapir have been tagged.