Fierce and Scary, Not Really: The Endangered Wildcats of The Osa Peninsula
Wildcats may look fierce and scary to most people but they are among the most critically endangered species in the world. Six species of wildcats are native to Costa Rica, and five of them can be found in the Osa Peninsula: jaguars, pumas, margay cats, ocelots, and jaguarondis. Jaguars are the most threatened of the six species. The wildcats of Costa Rica live in remote mountainous areas and in nature reserves. The multitude of nature reserves throughout Costa Rica has played a critical role in protecting not only wildcats but other endangered species as well. The main threat wildcats face is due to poaching and habitat loss. The more areas that are protected the better chance endangered species have of surviving and rebuilding their populations to healthy levels.
Wildcats are largely nocturnal creates that avoid humans so spotting them in the jungle during a day trip ecotour is extremely rare. The largest carnivore in Central America is the Jaguar. It is also the rarest of all the wildcats to actually encounter. Pumas or mountain lions ranks second in size for the wildcats. They live in varied habitats as diverse as Canada, Chile and Argentina. They are able to survive in a diversity of terrains and weather patterns. The ocelot is a small wildcat that lives in and hides on the ground and rarely climbs trees. The margay is even smaller than the ocelot and spends most of his life in trees.
While you will not spot any of these cats on a day hike, ecotourism plays a significant role in protecting these endangered animals. The industry makes conservation profitable. The largely protected areas of the Osa Peninsula, not only provide travelers with a pristine habitat to engage in many outdoor activities which drives and supports the local economy, but it also protects the habitat for these endangered species. In essence, it creates a safe zone for them to live and reproduce without threats. It is native Costa Ricans who have also done the work to protect these species through organizations such as Osa Conservation among other non-profits and NGOs. Costa Rica is actively engaged in protecting wildlife and biodiversity through legislative measures and policies too.
The many local conservation organizations throughout Costa Rica include YAGUARA, a non-profit based out of the Osa Peninsula. They promote biodiversity and conservation in Costa Rica and work to preserve and enhance the ecosystem of endangered species. Their conservation methods include camera traps, telemetry, and environmental education. Once a week they give a presentation at Crocodile Bay on their work, which is one of the great educational opportunities provided by the resort. The group presents photos of their work and research to educate people on the wildcats native to this area. Thus providing an opportunity for guests to learn more about conservation and the wildlife of the region.