Ecotourism overflow: local implications of restrictive conservation management

Sarah Durose1, *David Aneurin Jones1 and Rebeca Chaverri1

Global Vision International Costa Rica, Apartado Postal 78-7209, Cariari de Pococí, Limón, Costa Rica. Email:

Presented to the XIII Mesoamerican Congress of Biology and Conservation, Belize 2009. The Caño Palma (CP) waterway in Costa Rica is in a peculiar situation. Located inside the southern extent of Barra del Colorado Wildlife Refuge (REBACO) but just eight kilometers north of Tortuguero National Park (TNP), it is affected more by the ecotourism of its neighbor than the managerial issues associated with the northern majority of REBACO. The waterway itself functions as an access to two tourist lodges, several fincas, a biological station and the small village of San Francisco. As a narrow blackwater canal typical of the local Raphia taedigera swamp forests, its richness of biodiversity is appealing to the local tourist industry for the ease of spotting iconic fauna such as monkeys, toucans, and even, on occasion, wildcats. Despite not belonging to TNP it was included in the Plan de Manejo de Visitantes PNT produced by the regional and national environmental and conservation government agencies. The year end figures for visitors to TNP for 2003 were less than 68,000 people. From a brief study in March 2004 they estimated that of the five legally accessible waterways for TNP and the immediate area, CP received over 38% of the boat traffic. In 2006 Global Vision International Costa Rica (GVICR) began an ongoing long-term study of boat traffic along CP. The number of visitors to TNP has seen a near 100% increase since those figures in 2003. Unlike the TNP waterways, the traffic stresses on CP are not strictly controlled by TNP Rangers, nor are they limited to the slow moving traffic tour boats and canoes, as in the National Park. In this piece we present the information of the use of CP, both tourism and local, from 2006-2009 and begin to explore some of the implications for the canal by bringing in data from GVICR biodiversity studies in the area.

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