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New Wildlife Refuge a “Laboratory for Sustainable Development”

July 2005

Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco declared Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge as a new protected area in June.

Covering nearly 60,000 hectares of biologically rich forest, the refuge is designed to assure the survival of more than 200 species of plants and animals and provide environmentally friendly economic development opportunities for local people.

The refuge is home to globally threatened species such as cedro blanco (Cedrela fissilis), great green macaw (Ara ambigua), and keel-billed motmot (Electron carinatum). It also contains pristine wetlands that sustain American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) and a population of Caribbean manatee (Trichechus manatus).

“CEPF’s funding and the assistance we received from their local coordination unit was pivotal in getting the area recognized,” said Guisselle Monge, coordinator of the San Luan - La Selva Biological Corridor where the new refuge is located. “Maquenque will truly be a great laboratory for sustainable development.”

The corridor was originally designated by a coalition of 20 local and national nongovernmental organizations, municipalities and government agencies, most recently led by Centro Científico Tropical (CCT) with CEPF support.

Olivier Chassot, Monge’s partner at CCT added, “What’s particularly good is that we were able to conduct a consultative land tenure study and management plan process involving all the relevant stakeholders.”

Many landowners were opposed to the idea of a national park, and thus proposed the establishment of the national refuge that contains both strict conservation areas and multi-use areas for environmentally friendly activities, such as ecotourism, agroforestry and sustainable agriculture.

Outreach work engaging local populations in Costa Rica and Nicaragua helped ensure a high degree of local support for the agreements on land and natural resource use that accompany the area's new status.

The creation of the refuge marks the culmination of over 10 years' work by the coalition behind the corridor and secures vital ecological connectivity between 1.2 million hectares of protected areas that lie to its north and south, including the Indio-Maíz Biological Reserve in Nicaragua and the Central Volcanic Range in Costa Rica.

“This is great news for Nicaragua,” said Antonio Ruiz, executive director of the Fundación del Río in Nicaragua. “We now have even stronger bonds to keep biodiversity conservation initiatives going between our two countries.”

Connectivity provided by the new refuge will prevent isolation of threatened species and native ecosystems. This project also contributes significantly to CEPF’s strategy for Southern Mesoamerica to support improved management of key protected areas in the region.

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© Guillermo Duran
Multi-use areas in the new Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge aim to enable environmentally sustainable enterprises to grow.

© Guillermo Duran
The great green macaw (Ara ambigua) requires a wide area for breeding and foraging. It's the perfect species to illustrate the need for corridor connectivity.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund has separate but complementary investment strategies for the northern and southern regions of the Mesoamerica Hotspot. Visit the Mesoamerica section of this site.

Learn more about this project in the Eco-Index.

Para aprender más sobre este proyecto, visite el Eco-Index.

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Photo credits for banner images: (Frog) © CI, Haroldo Castro; (Chameleon) © CI, Russell A. Mittermeier