Costa Rica is famous for its animal wildlife – but unaccustomed to seeing it in backyards and on small town roads. Experts think the current pandemic has meant fewer people out and about, causing less noise and traffic and making animals feel more comfortable to emerge, even in daylight.
Security cameras, trap cameras and people’s cell phones have captured amazing sights. On February 15, a jaguar was observed in Tortuguero . On April 24th, a jaguar was seen strolling through Corcovado Park in broad daylight. On June 27th, residents of Villa Caletas reported a puma sighting. On May 25th, a pack of coyotes was sighted moving around volcan Irazu at 8AM.
Coyotes were also spotted in Alajuelita, raccoons in Barrio Escalante and Los Yoses, and wild pigs were spotted in Cartago. Heredia and Alajuela reported numerous sightings of porcupines. As humans hunker down away from the coronavirus, animals are emerging again from hiding from human predators.
According to Isabel Hagnauer of el Instituto en Conservacion y Manejo de Vida Silvestre (Conservation Institute of Universidad Nacional), Costa Rica has only 530 remaining jaguars. Jaguars are part of six species of Costa Rican big cats, including jaguars, pumas, and the lesser-known manigordos, caucel, jaguarondi and tigrillo. It is a truly amazing event when any of these felines are seen by humans, but it is happening with greater frequency since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to the World Economic Forum, COVID-19 has not been all good news for Mother Nature. They have said, “People who moved to cities and have lost their employment and income opportunities due to quarantines are returning to their rural homes, further increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmission to rural areas.” These people are also more likely to need to hunt wild animals for food.
While governments are focused on defending their citizens against COVID-19, criminal groups have been taking advantage of the distraction to conduct illegal mining, wildlife poaching, and deforestation. The World Economic Forum has declared the COVID-19 pandemic “a wildlife threat, rather than nature’s comeback.”
Levi Sucre Romero, a leader of the Bribri, one of Costa Rica’s largest indigenous groups, who lives in Talamanca, far removed from the country’s tourist hubs and well-populated areas, has a succinct opinion on what has happened in the world to allow this pandemic to pit humans against animals, virus-carrying bats against people. “We’re unbalancing the habitat of species, we’re cutting down trees, we’re planting monocultures, we’re filling the world with cities and asphalt and we’re using too many chemicals. It’s a cocktail of bad practices.”
While the world tries to sort itself out from the worst pandemic of our lifetimes, it is a small comfort that wild animals in Costa Rica and other Latin American countries are enjoying a short reprieve from the constant threat of humans, to be able to walk the earth in peace. Watch out for new sightings in your neighborhood
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