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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Tourism Boom in Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park: A Potential Ecological Disaster

The National University (UNA) warned about an eventual ecological disaster in Manuel Antonio Park, in Quepos, if the number of people visiting the Protected Area increases.

Manuel Antonio National Park (PNMA) currently limits access to 3,000 tourists per day and closes one day per week. The only current study on the park’s visitor capacity established a maximum of 600 people on weekdays and 800 on weekends.

Therefore, UNA explained that all restrictive decisions regarding management, specifically in terms of the days and hours visitors are allowed to enter the park, are based on evidence.

“The results obtained have served as scientific justification for some of the management decisions that have been addressed by the park administration, including the prohibition of camping, the closure of one day a week, the restriction of food intake, and the rejection of the increase in carrying capacity,” said Joel Saenz, director of the International Institute for Wildlife Conservation and Management at the National University.

Although the park can receive tourist visits, its primary objective is to protect the flora, fauna, and habitat of species that are endangered or threatened with extinction and plant species endemic to the country.

“These measures were taken to protect the natural resources that must be sheltered in a protected wilderness area,” added Saenz.

As detailed by UNA, the park’s actual capacity has been historically disregarded. This has put the park’s natural resources under high pressure due to the many tourists allowed in. The number is growing yearly, causing a continuous and constant impact on the protected area.

Laura Porras, researcher, indicated that the maximum carrying capacity in 2010 had been established at 600 visitors, “and now they are already at 3,000, without a technical study. The increase in visitation affects the real objective of the PNMA and the country’s national parks.”

The investigator also highlighted that the wildlife inhabiting the park, mainly those animals that move through the public zones, are subjected to a lot of stress due to the number of people entering the park daily.

“What happens to the animals when they interact with tourists? They modify their behavior in the long term. They are stressed by the noise and their fights over the food that the tourists bring. What happens when the animals are under stress? Their immune system goes down, and they can get sick and die,” she added.

The National University indicates that they are aware of the importance of the tourism industry for the country and how crucial it is for the economy. However, they assert that protecting Costa Rica’s natural wealth must be the priority.

Most tourists come to Costa Rica to admire its nature. We sell the image of a green, sustainable, conservationist country to the world, but internally we try to squeeze the natural resources in exchange for the economic benefit,” commented Saenz.

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