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When talking about Costa Rica’s biodiversity, it is impossible not to mention Cocos Island, a place of national pride that recently adds an important international recognition to its already vast collection of awards.


Costa Rica’s Biodiversity

Costa Rica's Biodiversity Cocos Island

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Costa Rica’s biodiversity is internationally recognized for its unique wealth. With a little more than 25% of its protected territory, Costa Rica has an amazing 6% of all the world’s biodiversity, an impressive number considering that its size covers only 0.034% of the earth’s surface.


Our territory is formed mainly by its maritime surface composed of 589 000 km2, while its land area is only 51,100 km2.


Broadly speaking, Costa Rica is home to just over 10,000 species of plants, in addition to 232 species of mammals, 838 species of birds, 183 species of amphibians, 258 species of reptiles, 130 species of freshwater fish and 300,000 species of insects.


Cocos Island a treasure in Costa Rica’s Biodiversity

Cocos Island was discovered in 1526 by Juan Cabezas. Located 532 km southwest of Cabo Blanco, the Island of only 2,400 hectares, is known as “Treasure Island”. Its historical value dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries, being the refuge of pirates. The legends say that valuable treasures are hidden in its coasts such as that of William Davies, that of “Bloody Sword” or the treasure of Lima.

Costa Rica's biodiversity Cocos Island Rays

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Its marine extension of 97,235 hectares is considered a natural laboratory and an invaluable site for the study of the evolution of the species. It was named by Jacques Cousteau as “the most beautiful island in the world” and is considered as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson for the classic “Treasure Island”.


Cocos Island is the largest uninhabited island in the world and the only one in the East Pacific that has a rain forest. Its broken topography gives rise to a unique landscape richness. Its cliffs up to 180 meters high result in the formation of a wide variety of impressive waterfalls and countless underwater caves.

Costa Rica’s biodiversity is enriched by the 235 species of plants that inhabit Cocos Island, of which 70 are endemic. In addition to 362 species of insects (64 endemic); 2 endemic reptile species: the lizard and the salamander; 3 spiders, 85 birds including marine (4 endemic), 57 crustaceans, 118 marine mollusks, more than 200 fish and 18 coral. In total, Cocos Island has about 100 unique species in the world, making up 50% of the endemic species of Costa Rica’s biodiversity.


The Island is especially attractive for one the highest concentrations in the world of various shark species, especially hammerhead sharks. Also, the whitefin sharks, tunas, lotus fish, blankets and horse mackerel inhabit its impressive turquoise clear waters.


Awards and Accolades

The Costa Rica’sbiodiversity highly recognized worldwide, embellishes a new recognition. Cocos Island recently joined the exclusive list of Blue Parks in the world. This list of only 16 marine protected areas is an initiative developed by the Marine Conservation Institute.


BlueParks seeks to save the world’s marine biodiversity. Although there are more than 11,000 marine protected areas in the world, only 2% of the ocean is strongly protected. This number contrasts sharply with the 30% recommended by scientists around the world, a percentage that would guarantee the well-being of our oceans and the recovery of the diversity and abundance of marine life for the future of humanity. This 30% is the goal that the Marine Conservation Institute has set for 2030 with the BlueParks program.


This important initiative recognizes the work of marine protected areas in 4 areas: science-based, effective management, collaboration and recognized excellence. The score in each of these areas results in the Platinum, Gold and Silver awards.


Thanks to the effort of the Cocos Marine Conservation Area and the Friends of the Coco Foundation, Costa Rica was awarded in the Platinum category on October 21 (2019).


Other acknowledgments that Costa Rica’s biodiversity boasts thanks to the beautiful “Isla del Coco” are the denomination of Natural World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1997, Wetland of International Importance in 1998 by the RAMSAR Convention; and Architectural Historical Heritage of Costa Rica, by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of Costa Rica in 2002.


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