A look into Costa Rica’s Children’s Eternal Rainforest, weapons and the protection of rangers.
By Kyle Cardine
MONTEVERDE, Costa Rica – The trails of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, with its the deep-greens and valley landscapes are no less magnificent than any of the other parks within Monteverde.
Walking through the introductory Bat Trail, or the more “difficult” Mirador trail, brings the potential for spotting the many species the reserve recommends visitors to look for. The faint sounds of birds and monkeys echo along the forest climate, along with the faint cries of a cicada, not unlike that of a disconnected phone line.
The Children’s Eternal Rainforest has seen other beings entering the reserve as well: hunters and poachers looking for those very same animals. Local rangers are fighting back against unwanted visitors, but the hunters carry one item that the the rangers don’t: weapons.
Some rangers working for the forest are looking to change that.
The Monteverde Conservation League, which maintains the forest, noted in its 2011 annual report that 45 people were caught committing illegal actions within the rainforest, almost double from 2010, with 26 people detained. The 2011 report also sites 287 confiscations, which includes items such as harpoons, bullets of different caliber and, most notably, firearms, with 26 confiscated that year.
With such a dramatic increase in ill intentioned people entering the reserve, many rangers that patrol at the rainforest are asking to have some sort of protection. Wendy Brenes, information and ecotourism coordinator at the Monteverde Conservation League, said the rangers are mainly asking for firearms.
“We’re not sure about the specifics, but they are asking to have guns,” Brenes said.
Brenes has been with the league for two-and-a-half years and works with many of the rangers. The first time she heard about the rangers wanting weapons was at the league’s annual assembly in 2011.
“We have seen and heard of what rangers have to deal with and we are certainly concerned,” Brenes said. “Some people have become very, very aggressive and sometimes [the rangers] do not feel secure.”
The children’s rainforest was founded in 1986 by a group of Swedish school children in hopes of saving the forest for children and adults in the Monteverde area. The league was also founded in 1986 and practices the same principles of non-violence the town’s founding Quakers believe. Especially for a country that had abolished its army in 1949, the proposal to introduce weapons for protection in the forest is problematic.
“I don’t think that [the proposal] matches with the philosophy of the league,” Brenes said. “Quakers founded this organization in some way. For them, peace and a friendly environment is very important. For that reason, I’m not sure if it will pass.”
Suggestions to carry firearms by rangers have been brought up at the annual assembly for the last two years, Brene said. The next assembly is on Feb. 2 and, if a vote were to be held, half of the 60 members on the board would have to approve the proposal.
“There is no vote planned now, but that is when a decision, if any, would be made,” Brene said.
The annual report, published in February of 2012, details items that were confiscated by reserve officials and, while specific species are not classified, the report cites birds and fish as one of the most confiscated creatures. Brene said animals like the pisquinte, the lowland paca, and the Black Guan are commonly hunted for food, while the same Guan, parrots and a variety of monkeys are often captured as pets or to be sold. The 2011 report also cited a Jaguarudi, a small wild cat, being confiscated.
The report also indicates mass amounts of plants confiscated from the forest. About 29,000 board-feet of wood and 47 orchids were retrieved from those captured.
Costa Rica unanimously passed legislation in December of 2012 banning trophy hunting, the first Latin American country to do so, according to the Global Post. It may take time to see the effects of that legislation, but the number of people captured in 2012 “may be similar, if not higher, than 2011,” Brenes said.
There has not been any significant push for either side of the proposal, but the League’s, and Brenes, opinion on the matter can only go so far, Brenes said.
“Personally, I believe in more environmental education, but of course I am behind a desk and it’s my co-workers who are dealing with those sort of situations in the field.”