Costa Rica may be known for its perfect beaches and sunny climate, but the wildlife is even more remarkable in the Central American nation. Despite being only the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica is home to more than 500,000 different species, making up an astounding 4% of all the plant, insect and wildlife species on the entire Earth!
Today, I wanted to introduce you to some of the cool, cute, and even cuddly animals and species that you'll encounter in Costa Rica!
The three-toed sloth
Costa Rica may be best known for its exotic and unique animals like the Three-Toed Sloth. As you might guess, these jungle dwellers are incredibly slow on land (but good swimmers) and lazy (they sleep 16-18 hours a day), living high up in the canopy and descending only once a week to go to the bathroom! In fact, these sloths dig a hole in the ground with their stubby tails, go to the bathroom in the hole, and then cover it up with leaves using its hind legs.
Interestingly, they are homebodies, spending about 20% of their life in the same tree and never venturing too far.
Sea turtles can be found in many parts of the world, but Costa Rica boasts the greatest concentration and variety of any nation. In fact, five of the seven species of sea turtles nest on the beaches of the Central American nation, where you can find leatherbacks, green, loggerhead, and hawksbill. But the most famous of Costa Rican sea turtles if the olive ridley, also called the arribada, which is Spanish for “arrival by sea.”
An incredible natural ritual that’s worth witnessing in Costa Rica is when tens of thousands of sea turtles come to shore, laying their eggs in the sand before leaving en masse. This happens up to eight times a year, and even scientists haven’t figured out how they know when it’s time to do this. Approximately two months later, the eggs hatch and hundreds of thousands of newborn turtles make their way back to the ocean to swim away. There are plenty of beaches up and down the coast where you can see this, but the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best.
If you’ve spent some time in the lowlands or beaches of Costa Rica, you may have been woken up at an un-Godly hour by the ear-splitting shrieks and howls of nearby howler monkeys. In fact, these calls from the adult males can be heard for almost a mile away. They usually “howl” at sunset or sunrise in response to encountering people, rain, thunder, other monkeys, or even airplanes overhead, though some biologists think these noises are their way of communicating with the troop. While they are loud, they’re not dangerous, and you might see a whole family swinging from trees with their particularly long tails or picking leaves or fruit to eat. Howler monkeys make up 69% of the total primate population in Costa Rica.
Toucans sail and swoon through the sky in the Costa Rican rainforest, emitting a unique yipping call. You can usually distinguish their flight patterns from other birds because
they rise with a few flaps of their wings, but then the weight of their beaks pulls them down again, so they rarely fly in a straight line like other birds.
The Chestnut-Mandibled Toucan is largest species of toucan in Central America and eats fruit, insects, and an occasional small snake. In Costa Rica, they prefer the wet forest lowlands of the Caribbean and Cordillera de Talamanca up to Carara on the Pacific side of the country.
Mexican tree frogs
There are a stunning 193 species of frogs and toads from 14 families in Costa Rica, and Tree frogs account for about one-third of their numbers. The tree frog – or Smilisca baudini – is known for making a distinct sound often
described as the horn on a clown car. Despite being named after Mexico to the north, they do inhabit Costa Rica in large numbers and tourists can often hear them in jungle areas.
Costa Rica’s cloud forests, rainforests, and tropical dry forests are the perfect habitat for butterflies, or caligo eurilochus if you want to use their scientific name. In fact, Costa Rica is such a lepidopterist’s (butterfly watcher) dream because 90% of all the butterflies in Central American can be found in the country, as well as 18% of the world’s total butterfly species. That means Costa Rica has more butterflies than all of North America and Europe combined!
I hope you enjoyed these cute and cuddly critters, but don't get too comfortable out in the wild in Costa Rica.
In fact, there are a whole lot of exotic, dangerous, and even deadly animals, from crocodiles to poisonous frogs and more. I'll highlight them in a future blog or you can discover the flora and fauna of Costa Rica extensively in the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook!
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