Locals protect and monitor species to share with travelers. In the town of Rancho Quemado, located in the South Pacific in Costa Rica at the Osa Peninsula, a group of locals participate 24/7 in monitoring the species of the forests that surround them, in order to protect and share this amazing biodiversity with travelers.
The Rancho Quemado Community Biological Monitoring project was born in 2015 when training on species monitoring was provided to locals of the community. Yolanda and Nuria, two women leaders of the project, have dedicated all their time to this initiative since the beginning and started to carry out species-sighting tours as an alternative to obtaining resources for biological monitoring.
“We offer bird watching tours, walks through the forest to observe mammals, walks along trails where there are labeled trees in danger of extinction, for those who love nature,” explains Yolanda while we walk one of the trails. “We also work on night tours where we look for insects, amphibians, and reptiles. We look for snakes at night; people are very passionate about that,” says Yolanda, highlighting the importance of the knowledge they have acquired over the years.
Biological monitoring has allowed them to have the experience and knowledge. “If a traveler wants to know where the ant tanager is, we are able to spot a place where there are high probabilities of observing that bird,” she says.
Sitting on a bench on the Sendero Sensorial, a 200-meter path located near the town so that people with disabilities have the opportunity to visit and feel the forest, Yolanda and Nuria make a count of the animals that can be observed in Rancho Quemado. “Depending on the time, we have snakes like the velvet, bocaracá, the plato negro (Lachesis megalocephalia), one of the most famous that is attracting people a lot. We also have a variety of frogs; we have glass frogs and the red-eyed frog,” among others.
Here, on the Sensory Trail, a biologist once found, in a matter of half an hour, seven different frogs and assured that this is a frog sanctuary because it is not common to find so many frogs in such a small place, said Yolanda.
The biologist added that “in the daytime tours, we can find large birds such as peacocks, wild chickens, toucans, and many migratory birds. As for mammals, we have jaguars, mountain pigs, tapirs, mountain goats, riverbeds, manigordos, coatis, raccoons, jaguarundis, and tairas (tolomucos).”
The monitoring work has led to an increase in the population of wild pigs, which neighbors have rescued from attacks by hunters. Now, they also offer tours to observe the wild pigs as another way to generate some income for the association.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic affected the economy of the people in the community of Rancho Quemado, these community leaders remain positive and committed to their species-count project. Fortunately, in recent months, some people have obtained employment in projects such as the construction of the new school or new bridges, says Yolanda. And now, Fundación Horizontes with their commitment to support local communities in the Osa Peninsula, plans to start a national and international marketing opportunity for their tours.
The learning experience that these women and their colleagues have had in monitoring, thanks to which they have extensive knowledge about the species, common and scientific names, resting places, how to trace their tracks and others, allows them to transmit all that valuable information to the travelers. Nuria says, “What we offer tourists is the opportunity to learn inside the forest. If I tell you what I feel, maybe you will not understand me, but if you go and live that experience for yourself, you will have a feeling, you will have that connection with nature that you did not have before, live a different experience.”
In collaboration with Colectivo 506.