|Map showing the location of Costa
for more detail)
Rica is very rich in plants and wildlife: it has over 8,000 different
native plants. (The UK, which is five times bigger, has 1,443.)
Costa Rica has already lost a great deal of its forest and about
3% of what is left disappears every year. This is the highest rate
in Central America apart from El Salvador.
The Corcovado National Park is on the Osa Peninsular. Around it
is the buffer zone, where an NGO
called TUVA is working with the local landowners. These farmers
need money but they don’t want to cut the forest to create
extra farming land, nor do they want to sell the logging rights
to a timber company because they depend on it for many non-timber
forest products. Working as co-operatives, they take out trees which
have fallen naturally. These are stripped of branches on site and
cut into manageable blocks of wood. This means there is minimum
damage to other trees when the wood is hauled out. Another advantage
is that 60-70% of the tree (the unusable branches) is left to rot,
providing nutrients for new plants and homes for small wildlife.
Water buffalo are used to haul the wood out and a breeding centre
has been set up, supported by WLT. Training and information for
other local people are also offered here. The project is not all
low-tech; the co-operatives use specialised monitoring and information
systems to locate suitable trees and the farmers have solar panels
and radio phones.
Right: Using water buffalo is safe, cheap
and causes little damage as the buffalo can use narrow forest tracks
– and they provide milk!