Ecological Disaster Could Strike Manuel Antonio National Park if Tourist Surge Continues, Researchers Warn

    Daily carrying capacity went from 600 people to 3,000 in a period of ten years

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    The alarm of a possible ecological disaster in the Manuel Antonio National Park, at Quepos, if the numbers of people who visit the Protected Area continue to increase, was launched by researchers from the National University (UNA).

    And it is that the stretch and shrink on how many people should and can enter the National Park seems to have no end, since there are those who defend that economic activity should not be harmed, against researchers who point out that there is no technical support to continue increasing the tourist figures.

    In the midst of this discussion, legislators from the Tourism Commission gave the green light to a new text of a project that seeks to dictate the guideline on the number of visitors that the Protected Area should receive daily.

    An ecological disaster

    However, Grace Wong and Laura Porras, from UNA’s International Institute for Conservation and Management of Wildlife (Icomvis), issued the warning that continuing to increase the number of visitors could cause an ecological disaster.

    “We recommend that the changes to the project not be approved, because the load capacity is already at 3,000 without carrying out a technical study, we cannot imagine the ecological disaster that can occur there, not just an ecological disaster, we must take into account that It is not from our area, but Manuel Antonio does not have the capacity for so many tourists in toilets and water,” said Porras.

    And it is that since 2012, the researchers have been given the task of studying the interaction of visitors with animals and have documented the way in which that behavior has varied.

    While in 2012 the carrying capacity of the Park was 600 people a day during the week and 800 on weekends, currently it is 3 thousand people a day. This as part of the changes that the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae) has proposed due to complaints of administrative mismanagement in Manuel Antonio, including the resale of tickets.

    In this desire to collaborate with the problem denounced by various sectors, the legislators made modifications to a project presented by former deputy Franggi Nicolás, where they suggest a constant flow of visitors, that is, those who leave will be replaced in the same proportion.

    Protecting natural resources

    “We understand the importance of economic development in an area like the Central Pacific, however, we want to be emphatic that protecting natural resources in the long term is vital and in this case, if the reform that is being proposed is approved, I think we are going to back, because we are accelerating the depletion of a resource, as in this case is Manuel Antonio”, said Wong.

    To date, they have identified 16 interactions between tourists and animals, the majority due to the entry of food into the Park, which generate negative effects on animals such as stress, impacts on the immune system, changes in the area where they move and an increased risk in the capacity of zoonotic diseases, according to the experts.

    For this reason, they recommend that it is necessary for Manuel Antonio to remain closed for at least one day during the week, so that the ecosystem can “rest” and resume its natural environment.

    “You have to do a technical study that says how many people the Park can support, that is not something whimsical, the soil, the environment, the forest, support a defined number of people, to keep the “chicken with the golden eggs” alive, because we can kill it very quickly if we put more tourists in that area,” added Porras.

    Despite the warnings from the researchers about a tourist exploitation of the Park against the conservation of its biodiversity, the deputies approved the modifications, pointing out that it is urgent to improve administrative, infrastructure and treatment conditions for tourists.

    Most of these changes are related to the administrative management of the National Park, but technical support regarding the flow of visitors has not yet been determined.

    An improvement in various fields

    “The situation of the Manuel Antonio Park must consider an improvement in various fields, from the care of its physical infrastructure, the experience that national and foreign tourists live, the purchase of tickets and the sustainable use of its natural environment,” said Carolina Delgado, deputy of the PLN.

    The current carrying capacity of 3,000 daily tourists could increase if the reforms endorsed by the Tourism Commission are approved in the Assembly, according to UNA researchers.

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