By Guillermo Escofet
Tico Times Staff
The National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) received a generous donation recently from a group of foreigners convinced of Costa Rica’s potential as a world center for “bioliteracy.”
Around 168 hectares of primary and secondary forest bought three years ago on the foothills of Irazú Volcano by two architects and a developer from Utah, U.S., will be owned and managed by INBio, which is in charge of researching all animal and plant species in Costa Rica. The lands are valued at approximately $300,000.
In return, the donors – who operate under the non-profit organization Corporación Bosque Lluvioso de Costa Rica- will be given use of a small part of the reserve to develop an education- al/eco-tourist complex christened “Exploratory ,” Including an academy, canopy tour and botanical gardens, it will give students (and tourists) from Costa Rica, Utah and other parts of the world a first-hand experience of the life found in tropical rainforests.
“WE donated the land to INBio because their mission and our mission are very similar,” said Corporación Bosque Lluvioso president Randall Tolpinrud, who was here from Salt Lake City two weeks ago to sign the agreement with INBio. “We have always believed this forest needed to be in the hands of a Costa Rican science-based organization that would insure its preservation and scientific use for generations to come.”
Coporación Bosque Lluvioso’s local representative, realtor Carlos Manuel Jiménez, explained that teaming up with a prestigious organization such as INBio will also help the corporation raise fundsfor its project.
In addition, said INBio’s General Director Rodrigo Gámez, the corporation realized the Institute would be more effective at certain things, such as providing the legal and material means for the forest’s protection, and putting its resources to good scientific use.
According to Gámez, a common belief in the importance of bioliteracy- knowledge of the variety of life forms we share the planet with – drew both organizations together.
Just an hour’s drive from where the Exploratory will open its doors to the public next year, INBio is building its own educational “Biodiversity Garden” on a six-hectare plot next to its research center in San José suburb of Santo Domingo.
The Garden will be like an open-air museum, displaying different ecosystems and their wildlife. According to Gámez, people of all ages will be able to go there for an introduction to the natural wonders in Costa Rica’s forests.
The Exploratory will complement this, he added, by giving those willing to venture a bit further a taste of the real thing.
“The concept of what they are plan ning to do there is exactly the same as ours in the Garden,” said Gámez.
The Exploratory ‘s Bosque Lluvioso Academy, comprising a labora tory, school and lodge, will allow visitors to stay in the forest for several days, learning from experts and helping INBio with its research work. The Explorato rium will also include a series of educa tional pavilions, a renewable energy demonstration, and several experimental waste-treatment facilities.
Tolpinrud explained that the complex will be built with “cutting edge ‘Green’ or sustainable development” techniques, such as the use of non-toxic and renew able materials, renewable energy systems, and water and energy conservation designs.
Jiménez sees Costa Rica as the ideal place for people in the developed world to learn about the natural wealth they are being asked to help conserve in tropical countries.
“In the Amazon, one can travel for three days and never leave the same ecosystem,” he explained. “In Costa Rica, on the other hand, three are more than 117 climatic zones within a relatively small area, offering a wide variety of ecosystems.”
JIMENEZ, who owns an estate agency specialized in ecotourism and private reserve projects, Tolpinrud and two other partners from Salt Lake City, architects William Connelly and Jerry Robin son, came to Costa Rica a few years ago looking to set up an eco-lodge, which eventually evolved into the academy idea.
The realtor found them the Bosque Lluvioso Reserve, which was being run as
a jungle day-tour business. The reserve, which used to be a farm, is bordered by Braulio Carrillo National Park to the south and a mix of farm lands, pastures, and forest patches in other parts.
The corporation intends to expand the borders of the reserve to eventually encompass 1,000 hectares, where experiments in reforestation and natural forest regeneration can be carried out under INBio’s supervision. Jimánez hopes the methods learned in the reserve can eventually be applied to other areas in the country where obsolete farm lands can be returned to its natural state.