Tortuguero Conservation Area (ACTo), Costa Rica
Tortuguero National Park is located within the Tortuguero Conservation Area or ACTo (Área de Conservación Tortuguero). This park has a land section area of 26,156 hectares and a marine section area of 50,160 hectares. The tropical wet forest is the predominant life zone, according to Holdridge system. The year average temperature is 26º Celsius and a precipitation range between 4,500 and 6,000 millimeters per year. There is a very complex hydrological system formed by rivers, canals, and lagoons. This system is used by Tortuguero inhabitants to provide general supplies and communication way. But also national and foreign tourists navigate through the system to observe the exuberant flora and fauna.
Tortuguero National Park was established in 1975. It is located in the North Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. The park was created by Archie Carr, a herpetologist who encouraged the protection of the endangered green turtles (Chelonia Mydas). Today, the park's beaches are key nesting ground for endangered sea turtle species.
- Above: View from Tortuguero Mountain (source), photo by Leyo, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Switzerland license.
- Below Left: Hawksbill Sea Turtle.
- Below Right: Spectacled Caiman (source), photo by Leyo, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Switzerland license.
Flora and Fauna
Tortuguero National Park has a very high biodiversity, due to the existence within the reserve of eleven different habitats, including rainforest, swamps, beaches, and lagoons. There are more than 400 trees species and approximately 2,200 species of other plants. Vegetation varies from coast vegetation to wet forests. Wetlands are very important ecosystems not only in its extension but also because of its environmental and economic benefits.
Fauna is also diverse. One of the most important attractions of Tortuguero National Park is the key nesting ground of endangered sea turtles, particularly these four species:
- Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) - the smallest and the most captured sea turtle for decorations
- Loggerhead (Caretta caretta)
- Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) - the second biggest and the most abundant in the Park
- Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) - the biggest sea turtle
The Costa Rican Environmental Law punishes and discourages buying, selling, trade, and/or trafficking any product from these animals.
Sensitive population of manatees or “sea cows”, as well as crocodilians like caimans, crocodiles, and the Tropical Gar (considered as a living fossil) also find home in the Tortuguero rivers. In the forest, you can find some mammal species like jaguars and three-toed sloths. Also inhabiting the area are 3 of Costa Rica's 4 species of monkey:
- Geoffroy's Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi)
- Mantled Howler (Alouatta palliata)
- White-headed Capuchin (Cebus capucinus)
There are about 405 bird species you can find in the Tortuguero National Park; approximately half of Costa Rican already identified birds. These include:
- Blue Herons
In addition, there is a high diversity in fish, insects, reptiles like the Basilisk lizards and amphibians like the poisonous frogs.
Because of the fact that four species of turtles are present in Tortuguero, the nesting period goes from February to October, being October the highest peak of the period.