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COSTA RICA: PURA VIDA! By Cynthia D. Jackson, Middle and Upper School Science

C

osta Rica is a country nestled in the middle of Central America, offering travelers an opportunity to view a wide

array of plants, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. In short, it is a mecca for biological field studies and a must-see destination for ecology enthusiasts interested in learning about rainforests. I hoped to use my experience in two of Costa Rica’s preserved parks—Rincón de la Vieja and Manuel Antonio—and my photographs to enhance the Forms I and III science Great egret (Casmerodius albus)

curriculum. Costa Rica is primarily known for ecotourism and has neither an extensive mass transit nor a well-developed road system. My tour started in Guanacaste near one of the area’s most active volcanoes in Rincón de la Vieja National Park, a place called Buena Vista, which is home to the most active geysers in Costa Rica. To reach the animals and birds, we traveled by horseback forty-five minutes to a remote part of the forest. We zip-lined across thirteen different platforms through the middle to upper canopies of the region, and finished with a tour of hot sulphuric mineral mud holes or, as the locals call them, “mud pots,” generated from the volcanic heat.

Red-eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas)

Howler monkeys: As their name suggests, vocal communication forms an important part of the howler monkeys’ social behavior. They have an enlarged vocal box allowing them to make impressively loud calls. Group males generally call at dawn and dusk as well as at regular intervals throughout the day. Their main vocals consist of loud, deep guttural growls or “howls.” Howler monkeys are widely considered to be the loudest land animal. The male monkey’s calls affect intergroup spacing and territorial protection, as well as mate-guarding. A howler monkey can and will show aggression against humans when its territory is threatened. The next leg of my trip in Costa Rica was to Manuel Antonio. With over 1,700 acres of land and marine reserve, it is

Southern river otter (Lutra longicaudis)

the smallest of twenty national parks Costa Rica has marked for total preservation. With the aid of a very alert guide, I saw whitefaced capuchin monkeys, white-nosed coatimundis, two- and

Buzzer Spring 2011  
Buzzer Spring 2011