Monday marks the 50th anniversary of Costa Rica’s oldest nationally protected forest, Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve. The National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) celebrated the milestone over the weekend with hikes, presentations and soccer games.
“The Cabo Blanco Absolute Nature Reserve became the first to provide effective protection,” SINAC’s Executive Director Rafael Gutiérrez said in a press release. “It paved the way for us to confront the accelerated destruction of our forests.”
Located on the Nicoya Peninsula’s southernmost tip, the Cabo Blanco rain forest is home to some 120 species of trees and numerous jungle mammals.
After serious deforestation for farming throughout the early 20th century, two Swedish immigrants, Nicolas Wessberg and Karen Mogensen, purchased the land in 1959 to protect it. In 1963 the reserve became the country’s first protected area, spurring the formation of the national park service. Today, more than 24 percent of Costa Rica’s territory is protected, the highest percentage in the world.
The official 50-year celebration took place in August with the signing of a decree allowing park rangers to carry firearms.