According to data recorded by the group Vías Amigables con la Vida Silvestre (Friendly Ways to Wildlife), in the first 6 months of 2022, 34 species of endangered felines have been registered as dead due to outrage. Costa Rica is recognized worldwide for its diversity in flora and fauna. However, no law or decree establishes responsibilities to guarantee the passage of these animals on the roads.
Just 12 years ago, the need to build steps that guarantee the life of wild species began to be taken into account. “I can show you many studies of the impact on different species. But without law not much is done and it is urgent to advance on this issue”, explained Joel Saénz, director of the International Institute for Conservation and Management of Wildlife of the National University (UNA). “With a legal framework, we can unify institutional efforts. For example, Sinac, MOPT and universities, because there is interest from many institutions and NGOs, but as there is no north, each one makes their effort separately”, acknowledged Saenz.
After a consultation by El Observador with the environmentalist Andrea Ávila, in charge of the Transport Infrastructure Project of the Ministry of Public Works (MOPT), she commented: “All the measures that have been made in favor of the fauna are by institutional initiative. It may be a lack of political interest because no law requires us to implement measures to guarantee these steps in new construction projects”.
This lack of political action has caused highways to cross protected areas, and those responsible for ensuring animal welfare bet on the goodwill of users. “All the measures that we implement in the new projects seek to reduce the impact. It will never be possible to eliminate it, and there remains a very strong social issue that is the user’s decision, respect for road signs and safety”, said the MOPT environmentalist.
Endangered feline species
Among the 34 felines that have been run over, there are 5 out of the 6 existing species in Costa Rica:
Being the ocelot the species that registers the highest number of abuses with 65% of the cases. The only species that does not register deaths are the tigrillos. “They are species of great importance for the conservation of ecosystems; they also play a vital role as large predators, mainly pumas, and jaguars that generally require large areas of forest to survive. Protecting these carnivores also means protecting the country’s biodiversity and the health of our ecosystems”, explained Daniela Araya Gamboa, from the organization Pantera Costa Rica.
Since 2012, 42 felines have been reported dead due to abuses per year in Costa Rica. “The data is alarming; the 6 species of wild cats existing in our country are under a conservation status of threat or danger of extinction. They are protected by the Wildlife Conservation Law No. 7317, in addition to being on the red list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)”, said Araya.
Images courtesy of the director, and researcher, of the International Institute for Wildlife Conservation and Management of the National University (UNA), Joel Sáenz
On July 4th, National Wild Feline Day, a campaign was launched on social networks with the message ‘National Mourning for Felines Run Over in Costa Rica’. “We need the incorporation of environmental measures on the roads, based on scientific data, it is the main solution to reduce and avoid this impact”, the NGO emphasized.
Among the measures they seek to implement are:
• Changes in the layout and design of the original work
• Installation of traffic signals and speed bumps
• Dispersal barriers for birds
• Creation of structures, such as adaptation of sewers and
• Specific fauna crossing, both land and aerial, accompanied by a mesh that facilitates the entry of animals to these safe passages.
According to MOPT, since 2010, 38 underpasses have been installed in road projects and 43 new underpasses are under construction in different road projects.