Cahuita National Park
Founded in 1970 to protect the country’s largest coral reef, this park has a unique co-management system with the local community. In place of entrance fees, the community collects donations at the entrance in the town.
One of Costa Rica’s smallest parks at just over 1,000 hectares (2,600 acres) including a marine portion protecting the reef. Wildlife here includes three species of monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, caimans, anteaters, and roughly 400 species of birds.
The reef has more than 500 species of fish, as well as hawksbill sea turtles, lobsters, and several species of coral. The beaches are among the most beautiful in the country and the waters are great for swimming and in some spots, surfing.
Sea Turtle Conservation Project
The Cahuita project was started in 2000 by Asociacion ANAI’s sea turtle conservation program (which has since become WIDECAST Latin America) after realizing that the area is an important nesting site for the critically endangered leatherback turtle as well as the country’s most important nesting site for hawksbill turtles. SEE Turtles co-founder Brad Nahill and his wife helped to start the project with two Costa Rican turtle conservationists, Henry Alguera and Luis Correa.
Until recently the sea turtle nesting beach at in the National Park remained relatively unknown to the outside world and the harvesting of eggs by the local population was estimated at more than 90 percent. Although in the past this was probably a sustainable practice and therefore the impact on population numbers was not significant, this has now changed with the improved road system to the area and the increased human population in the nearby towns of Puerto Viejo and Cahuita.
At the moment, these two projects are helping to re-establish a viable population of sea turtles. Egg poaching has been reduced to less than 40%. The project staff patrols the beach with assistance from volunteers, keeping poachers away while collecting research information and helping newborn hatchlings reach the sea safely. In addition, researchers are monitoring the hawksbill population in the park’s coral reef every September and October.
About WIDECAST Latin America
The mission of WIDECAST Latin America is to improve the conservation status of the marine turtles in Costa Rica, with emphasis on the Caribbean region, through research, political lobbying, planning, training, creation of socio-economic alternatives and public awareness.
Their other projects include nesting beach conservation projects in the Osa Peninsula and elsewhere. They also work with cooperatives to develop a market for recycled plastic handbags.