The community of Puerto Viejo came together to stop habitat loss
Over the last few weekends of December 2021, we and our sloth guardians in Puerto Viejo witnessed deforestation occurring in the Maritime-Terrestrial Zone (MTZ) of the South Caribbean – specifically between Selina Hostel and the Cocles viewpoint.
This spot may sound familiar, as it is the home of one of our Urban Sloths Luna and her big baby Sol. The MTZ is a 200m strip of public land along the coastline that is strictly regulated by the government; building, exploiting flora and fauna (which is what was occurring here), entrances from the road, etc, is only possible with the correct permits, which are very difficult to obtain.
- Read More: The Urban Sloth Project
This destruction began slowly on Saturday 11th December 2021 which rang alarm bells; as we all know, most government employees do not work on the weekends. There was no official government body to oversee the ‘pruning’ of low growing vegetation and undergrowth, as well as the felling of some healthy trees.
We thought that was the end of it, as the undergrowth is cut back periodically for security purposes along the beach path.
The situation becomes worse
However, on Saturday 18th December 2021, the South Caribbean community awoke to a greatly concerning scene. The destruction had intensified, now with more chainsaws to cut more healthy trees and driven hydraulic machinery to level the ground and fill it with gravel.
The community came together in outrage, including many influential members of the community, and reported these works to the authorities, specifically to the Public Force and SINAC. Hours later, SINAC responded, went to the site, and put a stop to the work when they found flagrant dismissal of MTZ regulations.
A formal report was drawn up and sent to the Bribrí Prosecutor’s Office for alleged violations of various environmental and land-use legislation in Costa Rica.
These actions caused a serious environmental impact in that area, which is considered a Natural Heritage of the State and part of the MTZ.
A gloomy picture
On 20th December 2021, SloCo staff visited the site to assess the extent of the damage. We found 15 sloths of both families crammed into the few remaining trees, all demonstrating abnormal behaviors.
The sloths were very active. Multiple sloths were coming to the ground to fruitlessly search for another appropriate tree and attempting to cross the busy road because all tree connections were lost.
Sloths are creatures of habit and these guys had just had their entire home destroyed – they were in great distress. We spotted Luna among them, sharing a guarumo tree with other sloths.
Development without destruction
We understand that in some cases certain types of public works may be necessary; however, all these must be carried out in strict adherence to the law, having carried out the associated environmental impact studies, and above all with an entire and great understanding of the ecosystem being interfered with.
In the last two years, we have seen a huge increase in construction in the South Caribbean, which is rapidly eliminating the coastal and inland ecosystems of Talamanca.
Unfortunately, the lack of intelligent planning and environmental awareness results in excessive systemic pressure on flora and fauna. These species will sadly pay the ultimate price for human intervention and destruction.