Last update:
2020-03-02

Poaching, illegal mining, and other crimes in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica

Corcovado National Park is rich with biodiversity and natural resources, making it a prime target for a wide variety of illegal activities. Park rangers, wildlife, the environment, and locals alike face violence because of these criminals.



Description:

Corcovado National Park was established in 1975 covering an area of 42,570 hectares on land and 5,375 underwater on the Osa Peninsula in the south of Costa Rica. A rare vast wilderness area said to be home to 2.5% of the world’s biodiversity, Corcovado contains the last major intact forests and wildlife habitats without human development and a variety of forest, beach, coral reef, mangrove and freshwater marsh ecosystems unique to the Americas [3, 7].  Although Corcovado National Park has protected status and Costa Rica has solid environmental legislation such as the mining code, biodiversity law, and national parks law, it has not stopped criminal organizations, miners, smugglers, and hunters from going after its abundant resources ever since the park was founded [1, 5]. Cocaine traffickers are also very active along Corcovado’s coastlines, where their boats tear up the beach and they terrorize locals and animals. These groups are mainly from outside of the region, as locals typically do not hunt in the park for subsistence and are actively involved in the park’s conservation [1, 6]. Ugalde, director of the Osa Conservation Area (ACOSA), which contains Corcovado National Park, explained, “They’re armed to the teeth, so they’re not poor people. They’re armed with machine guns and driving luxury SUVs” [2]. With only 27 rangers guarding the area 24/7, there are not nearly enough staff to cover the entire area of the park against the very quick, numerous, well-funded, and technologically savvy criminals, among other structural issues [1, 5, 6]. Thugs can enter the park and leave from many trails and access points, by boat and foot.  Professional hunters use $9,000 hunting dogs to chase down and kill jaguars, deer, wild pig and other vanishing species. Turtles and their eggs are also a valuable commodity. Local and national syndicates poach fish, mine gold, and hunt wildlife like the Paca and deer for commercial sale from deep in the core areas of the national park’s wildlife habitats [1]. Endangered sharks are killed for their valuable fins, while scarlet macaws are often trapped to sell in the exotic pet trade. Other animals are hunted for food by the dozens of illegal miners and loggers that can reside in a park for weeks at a time [6]. They even submit false sightings or tips to distract park rangers from areas where they are actually committing their crimes [2].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Poaching, illegal mining, and other crimes in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica
Country:Costa Rica
State or province:Puntarenas
Location of conflict:Corcovado National Park
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Wetlands and coastal zone management
Other
Logging and non timber extraction
Deforestation
Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Biological resources
Live Animals
Meat
Coal
Fish
Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Poachers often carry heavy weaponry such as AK-47s. They gun down as many peccaries as they can, sometimes 50 or more at one time. Poachers move stealthily and rarely use the same route twice. The poachers’ main points of entry are along the park’s largely unmanned northern border. They remove signs that say “Park Boundary. Hunting Prohibited,” and modify them so they say only “Hunting.” Jaguar pelts can fetch up to $1,500 on the black market, and some jewelry stores offer jaguar teeth and skulls mounted in gold for a huge price. Peccary meat can bring hunters between $21 and $28 per kilo. That means that at 34 kilograms apiece (the average weight of a peccary), a single kill could bring in more than $941. Peccary meat often is sold in cantinas in the area and in some restaurants in the Central Valley [2].

Project area:48,305
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:24/10/1975
Relevant government actors:National System of Conservation Area's Workers Union (Sitraminae), Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación (SINAC), Ministery of Environment (MINAE), Área de Conservación Osa (ACOSA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Samaritan Xocolata
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Women
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in violence and crime, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Deaths, Assassinations, Murders
Court decision (undecided)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Moratoria
Kimberley Blackwell was strangled to death and her body was found on February 2, 2011
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Although Blackwell managed to inspire many people to join the fight against poaching and other illegal activities in Corcovado and beyond, and despite there being a new law passed to ban sport hunting among other solid environmental policies, there are still not enough park rangers to protect the park against so many different criminal groups.
Sources & Materials

[1] Global Conservation. END ILLEGAL MINING AND COMMERCIAL HUNTING IN CORCOVADO NATIONAL PARK (2019)
[click to view]

[11] The Tico Times. Chocolate company forges on despite tragedy (Alvarado 2011)
[click to view]

[13] Red Deer Advocate. Memorial planned for woman killed in Costa Rica (2011)
[click to view]

[15] Yukon News. “Quintessential Yukoner” killed in Costa Rica (Stasyszyn 2011)
[click to view]

[16] Dos Brazos. https://www.corcovadoeltigre.com/ (last accessed 14.2.2020)
[click to view]

[16] Dos Brazos. About us (last accessed 14.2.2020)
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA, [email protected]
Last update02/03/2020
Conflict ID:4951
Comments
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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