Why Finca Cántaros wants to help create “green highways”

By: Lilly Briggs
September 7, 2020

If you are a human who lives in San Vito, where Finca Cántaros is based, but a loved one lives further north in Costa Rica, you can drive different roads to reach them.

If you are a White-faced Capuchin Monkey (Cebus imitator) who lives in San Vito, human-made forms of connectivity like highways make it impossible for you to safely interact with other members of your clan, just throughout this county of Coto Brus.

Cántaros wants to help connect communities through the conservation of biological corridors. Among the various ecological and social objectives embedded in this mission statement, one is helping those monkeys get to each other—just like the costanera highway that runs up the Pacific coast of Costa Rica gets me to Monteverde.

If you think it is paradoxical to compare biological corridors to human-made barriers like highways—which are notoriously dangerous to wildlife—you are right.

However, a biological corridor is essentially a “green highway” for monkeys and other species. It is a delimited, land-based territory that aims to create connectivity between different habitats such as forest patches. Some forest patches can actually have negative impacts on many species.

Another unexpected paradox!

While having a patch of forest is still better than not having one, several challenges can arise when the patch is small, and/or separated from other forested areas not only by highways, but by human-made barriers such as large monocultures of crops.

Many species require large territories in order to reproduce successfully. All animals—ourselves included—need food, water, shelter and space to both breed and survive, but in small, isolated forest patches there might simply not be enough such resources to go around. The competition is too fierce.

Further, when a detached population of monkeys interbreeds too much over time, it weakens their immune systems and makes them more vulnerable to disease. 

Cántaros may be home to over 250 different species of birds, plus a variety of mammals such as bats, sloths, agoutis, coatis and squirrels. But we have no monkeys. Despite the fantastic forest that Gail Hull started growing over 25 years ago, it is still isolated. 

The more recent reforestation projects that have been launched over the past year aim to connect Cántaros to the regional biological corridor effort called “AmistOsa,” which connects the Parque Nacional La Amistad to the Osa Peninsula. 

We are also setting up a wildlife bridge between Cántaros and a neighbouring forest patch. Wildlife bridges are another way to create connectivity and thus reduce the hazards of highways. I am happy see some (though not enough) as I cruise along the costanera.

When I am out wandering both the old and new forests of Cántaros, I sometimes close my eyes and imagine what the next 25 years will bring. I see the young trees in the Bosque de los Niños towering over me. And I dream of monkeys swinging happily from their branches. 




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