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Rancho Mastatal Private Wildlife Refuge

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In 2002, we initiated the process to put aside most of our property as a private wildlife refuge. This involved developing and having approved by the Costa Rican government a management plan that outlines how we can use the land while meeting the primary objective of natural resource conservation. The management plan sets the parameters for what we can and cannot do in the refuge. The process took numerous months to develop and coincided with the Costa Rica Ministry of the Environment's (MINAE) efforts to create a national park in our backyard. There were some nervous moments for us and the community when rumors started to fly about the government's desire to include the Ranch's land and a number of community residences as part of the new national park. In the end, it worked out that everyone was able to keep their property and after an arduous process we were able to achieve refuge status for some 200 acres of mostly forested land that now borders La Cangreja National Park. Within the park boundaries hikers might be lucky enough to spy ocelots, puma, margays, white-faced monkeys, sloths, or anteaters. There any number of rainforest tree species, hundreds of bird species and a few plants that are endemic only to our region. The Ranch's private wildlife refuge is a playground for nature lovers and helps to protect the precious water resources of our community.



Tropical forests cover less than 7 percent of the earth’s land surface, but contain more than 50 percent of its entire species. They serve as a huge storehouse of biological wealth, and are regarded as enormously important regulators of climate. They are also sources of continuous intellectual and aesthetic stimulation for the visitor, and hold the key to new medicines of the future.

In the forests of the American neotropics, a visitor can experience such wonders as iridescent blue Morpho butterflies as big as a human hand, brilliantly hued poison dart frogs, and gigantic buttressed trees so covered with orchids, bromeliads, and other plants as to appear to be a forest inside a forest.

While Costa Rica is committed to preserving some of its natural heritage, it is also saddled with one of the largest per-capita foreign debts in the world. Servicing this debt could someday push the government into budget cutbacks for new park acquisitions or even for basic operations. It is likely there will be pressure to open some protected areas to timber and mining development. We hope to help ward off these potential threats by encouraging visitors to hike in the magnificent forest on our property and the adjacent La Cangreja National Park, or to paddle the wonderful rivers in the area, or to horseback ride in the beautiful countryside of Puriscal. If the undeservedly lesser-known parks are perceived as being a real or potential "draw", then their survival will most likely be assured.

Costa Rica is a small country, yet its diverse habitats harbor some of the richest flora and fauna in the world. This biodiversity attracts nature-loving visitors from all over the world. The primary attraction for many naturalists is the birds, of which some 850 species have been recorded – more than in any one of the continents of North America, Australia, or Europe. Over 50 species of hummingbirds have been recorded from Costa Rica. Other tropical birds include scarlet macaws and 15 other parrot species; six different toucans; the huge and very rare harpy eagle; and a large array of other tropical birds such as flycatchers, tanagers, antbirds and cotingas. Costa Rica has over 200 species of mammals. Visitors are likely to see some of the four monkey species found here, Other tropical specialties include sloths, armadillos, agoutis, peccaries, kinkajous, raccoons, skunks, otters, foxes, squirrels and bats. Mammals such as ocelots, jaguars and tapirs exist but are not often seen. At least 35,000 species of insects from Costa Rica have been described, and many thousands remain unnamed. There are thousands of butterflies, including the dazzling morphos. There are many ant species as well. The approximately 150 species of amphibians include red, black, blue or yellow poison-arrow frogs. Over 200 species of reptiles are found in Costa Rica. About half are snakes. Some 10,000 species of vascular plants have been described and more are added every year. Orchids alone account for some 1200 species, and about 1,400 tree species has been recorded.

Please help us to conserve and preserve the rainforest.


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Tim O'Hara

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