THE U.S.-based Gordon and Betty MooreFoundation will donate $8 million to help Costa Rica’sfinancially strained national park system combat poachingand illegal logging on the Osa Peninsula, in CostaRica’s Southern Zone, government officials announcedthis week.“This fills us with tremendous joy,” Environmentand Energy Minister Carlos Manuel Rodríguez said atTuesday’s Cabinet meeting. “It’s not just any country orany project that is accepted by the Moore Foundation.”The donation, which will be distributed over a periodof three years, is medium-sized but “unique” for theorganization, according to Moore Foundation representativeJennifer Cruz.“It doesn’t fit in with our approved initiatives, but the foundation felt it a unique opportunityto make a difference,” Cruz told The TicoTimes from her office in Washington D.C.THE Moore Foundation, based in SanFrancisco, California, normally focuses itsenvironmental conservation efforts on twomajor initiatives, Cruz said: an effort tosave salmon in the northern Pacific, fromAlaska to Russia, and rainforest conservationin the Amazon region.She said the donation for Costa Ricawill go to the non-governmental NatureConservancy, which will be charged withworking with the Environment and EnergyMinistry (MINAE) and non-governmentorganizations to combat illegal hunting, logging,gold panning, mining and squattingacross the peninsula, which is home to the54,000-hectare Corcovado National Park.It was not clear whether the donationswould play a part in resolving the conflictbetween the government and the hundredsclaiming they were gold panners and minersand were left jobless when CorcovadoNational Park was created. More than 100former oreros have been camping in front ofthe Casa Presidencial in San José for weeks(TT, Nov. 5).POACHING on the Osa Peninsulareached a breaking point this year, accordingto scientists from the UniversidadNacional (UNA), and will likely lead to theregional extinction of jaguars and white-lippedpeccaries if nothing is done.Illegal hunters in recent years havestepped up their activity in Corcovado, leavingthe animals with no haven to reproduce,said Eduardo Carrillo of UNA, headingwhat is widely known as the world’s leadingjaguar study.Since 2000, the jaguar population in thepark has plummeted from between 100-150to between 30-40 this year.The other park in the area is PiedrasBlancas National Park, opposite the GolfoDulce from the peninsula. Efforts have beenunder way for years to create a biologicalcorridor connecting the two parks, Carrillosaid. According to his most recent data,there are no jaguars in the corridor (TT, July23).The donation, Rodríguez said, will providefor the continued protection of the parkthrough additional park guards and socialprograms to help those who hunt white-lippedpeccaries for subsistence.SCIENTISTS and MINAE officialsagree an adequate number of guards in thepark would curb poachers and give the animalsa chance to recuperate.A lack of funding has forced the governmentto cut the number of park guardsacross the country by 100 during the past 10years. In Corcovado, there are 25 guards.Park director Eliecer Árce said earlier thisyear a minimum of 40 full-time guardswould be necessary to control the poachingproblem (TT, March 19).Because of the scarcity of governmentfunding, conservation efforts on the peninsulahave been surviving almost strictly ondonations from area hotels and tour guidecompanies.The non-profit Corcovado Foundationmanages funds from at least ten privatedonors and has spearheaded initiatives tobuild a new park guard station onCorcovado’s largely unmanned northernborder, where MINAE officials say mostpoachers enter.According to Corcovado Foundationpresident Alejandra Zúñiga, those effortshad been chipping away at the poachingproblem, but a large donation is what wasneeded to save the region.“THIS is what we’ve been waiting for,”Zúñiga told The Tico Times this week inresponse to news of the $8 million donation.“This is great for the park. It’s wonderful.”Nature Conservancy President SteveMcCormick said in a statement that thedonation would provide for long-term protectionof the region.“This donation not only permits us toimmediately protect the most threatenedareas of Osa, it also permits us to trainour associates so they can protect thissurprising habitat in the long term,”McCormick said.Cruz, of the Moore Foundation, pointedout that the donation would be used acrossthe region, and that working with existingarea organizations such as the CorcovadoFoundation will be a vital component to theconservation effort.She said the poaching crisis played apart in the awarding of the donation “in ageneral sense, in that we know that the Osais currently under threat and we know thatlarge mammals are experiencing threat.”Minister Rodríguez made a point ofespecially thanking President Abel Pachecofor his efforts in negotiating the MooreFoundation donation, and denied that thegovernment had ignored the poaching problem.“MORE than trying to evade reality, wehave confronted this situation,” Rodríguezsaid.Cruz also said the President played animportant role in negotiating the donation,calling him a “great advocate” of conservationon the Osa Peninsula.Rodríguez said additional governmentfunding for the parks will not come until theLegislative Assembly passes the PermanentFiscal Reform Plan, a controversial andambitious tax proposal that has been debatedfor nearly three years.In the past, Pacheco has said the governmentis financially unable to combat thepoaching, arguing he “can’t get rid of doctorsto hire park guards” (TT, July 23).Those interested in donating funds toconserve the Osa Peninsula can visitwww.osacampaign.com.Another option for helping is throughthe purchase of the music CD “DejandoHuellas,” produced by Horizontes Naturetours. The CD is $20 and all profits gotoward conservation efforts in Corcovado(TT, June 11).
Today in Costa Rica