Tortuguero National Park is situated in the Limón Province of northern Costa Rica. Set in a natural wetland of the Caribbean coast with over 20 miles of coastline, it forms a corridor with another protected area, the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve of Nicaragua and is a key Ramsar site.
Tortuguero National Park
Tortuguero National Park covers an area of 31,174 ha (77,032 acres) in the Limón Province of northern Costa Rica. Set in a natural wetland of the Caribbean coast, it forms a corridor with another protected area, the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve of Nicaragua and is a key Ramsar site.
The park has a large biological diversity due to eleven different habitats within the reserve including rain forest, mangrove forests, swamps, beaches and lagoons. Located in a tropical climate, it is very humid and receives up to 6,400 mm (250 in) of rain a year.
Tortuguero National Park has over 32 km (20 mi) of coastline which provides sea turtles a protected place to lay their eggs. The main species to lay eggs during the winter months of February to July are: hawksbill, loggerheads, green, and leatherbacks.
The rivers are home to sensitive populations of manatees, as well as caimans, crocodiles, and tropical gar which is considered a living fossil. The forests are home to jaguars, three-toed sloths and three of Costa Rica's four species of monkey: Geoffroy's spider monkey, the mantled howler and the white-headed capuchin.
Basilisk lizards and poisonous frogs also inhabit the area, along with 375 species of birds including kingfishers, toucans, blue herons, peacocks and parrots. The park is also a migratory stopover for nearly one million birds annually.
Species of marine and freshwater fish reported are: the Cichlidae, Characidae, Pimelodidae, Carcharinidae, Centropomidae, and Lutjanidae; a minimum of 10 species of freshwater molluscs such as Mytilopsis guianensis. Reptiles and amphibians reported are: Caiman crocodilus, Chrysemys spp., Rhinoclemmys spp., frogs (Dendrobatidae), and many endemic species of salamanders.
The national park ecosystem has more than 400 species of trees and about 2,200 species of other plants. Lakes, marshes and floodplains areas in the park have reported flora varieties such as:
- trees including Inga spp., Pterocarpus officinalis, Pachira aquatica, Pentaclethra macroloba
- large trees with thick and varied undergrowth including several species of small palms such as Raphia taedigera
- floating aquatic plants in the streams such as the genera Azolla, Eichhornia, Hydrocotyle and Salvinia (which fully cover the streams during the dry season)
Tortuguero National Park is surrounded by private property consisting of large areas in use for cattle ranching and agricultural farming.
The park area itself does not have any permanent human settlement though settlement was reported during the early part of the twentieth century when timber logging, turtle hunting, and collecting and selling skins of large mammals and reptiles were the major activities.
The local inhabitants around the park are only permitted to collect forest products to supplement their income and also for domestic use. Fishing and tourism are major activities.