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Bright Future for Nosara’s Arboreal Wildlife

By Felipe López
Biologist and Photographer
Photos by Felipe López and Rolf Sommer

ICE employees worked during an entire month isolating wires inside the Guiones community.
Baby monkeys are the only ones who have the greatest chance of returning to the woods and it is very frustrating to know that, once they are healed and have readjusted to their natural environment, the possibility of being electrocuted once again is still present.

Sustainable energy delivery finally becomes a reality in Nosara, Costa Rica.

The arboreal wildlife of Nosara is finally getting a break from the brutal electrocutions they have been exposed to in the past. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (Costa Rican Electricity Institute, I.C.E. in Spanish) is replacing 20 km of the old uninsulated wire with the new insulated version, a measure that will hopefully save countless wild animal lives.

In the small-but-progressive country of Costa Rica, 95% of the electricity is considered “clean”, meaning that little or no greenhouse gases are emitted during the process of generating it. Around 80% of it is hydroelectric, augmented with geothermal and wind. But, as I recently learned, the way you deliver that cleanly generated energy can also have a strong negative impact on natural ecosystems.

The main problem with uninsulated above ground wires and transformer leads is that many native arboreal animals often confuse them with vines or lianas, and upon contact, die unfortunate and indescribably horrible deaths. Sometimes, when they’re not so lucky, they survive, and the severely deformed and heavily burned bodies of howler monkeys and other arboreal animals, have to be tended for. The good thing though, is that there is a viable solution to the problem at hand: insulated above ground electric lines.

In the even smaller and probably even more progressive town of Nosara, a rural community with high concentrations of arboreal wild animals, we are witnessing the first baby steps of sustainable energy delivery in Costa Rica. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (Costa Rican Electricity Institute) has replaced 20 kilometers of uninsulated high tension wires with insulated cable. Even though it is not the most sustainable option, at least the animals don’t get killed, which is a huge step forward.

I.C.E has replaced hundreds of kilometers of uninsulated power lines in protected areas, like National Parks, and this has probably saved the lives of hundreds of wild animals already. The main problem is that accidental wildlife electrocutions were not foreseen outside protected areas, so insulated lines were not thought necessary. There are many rural towns in Costa Rica that, like Nosara, still have significant populations of arboreal mammals trying to coexist with their human neighbors. Sadly, this relationship has been detrimental to wildlife because they often make the fatal mistake of confusing the uninsulated lines and get electrocuted upon contact. It was only after the community got together, gathered undeniable proof of what was happening and demanded a halt to the massacre, that the I.C.E. became aware of the problem and could justify making this big investment, which will be of approximately USD $400,000 after the work is finished.

Howler Monkeys need their family just like human beings. When they are hurt, and their family is not there, body defenses lower and they are less immune to viruses and bacteria, making the recovery process more difficult.
In this case, his face was completely burnt. Possibilities of recuperation are close to impossible.

These 20 km of insulted wires, considered just a snowflake at the tip of an iceberg, are the result of years of unconditional and relentless efforts on behalf of Brenda Bombard, Vicki Coan and a long list of veterinarians, biologists, journalists, volunteers and conscious neighbors who lobbied to stop the cruel, unnecessary deaths of wild animals in their community. This would seem like an achievement after all this hard work, but far from being glad and content, they are already thinking of ways to get the I.C.E. to insulate the hundreds of kilometers of power lines in wildlife sensitive areas that are yet to be replaced.

Getting the job done would mean a huge investment from the government-run I.C.E., but it would also be seen as “walking the talk” by the international community in the context of the government’s “Peace with Nature” campaign and its efforts to become carbon neutral by 2021. They can certainly benefit from the green publicity, especially now that Costa Rica has just signed a free trade agreement with the US and the telecommunications market is opening up. They have to get consumers to choose them over transnational giants, and a good sustainable press on electricity delivery is sure to score some points on their side.

The monkey’s extremities, like hands, feet and tails, tend to be the first parts burned during the shocks, the majority of the time they must be amputated.


ICE building a monkey bridge

For Brenda Bombard, the I.C.E.’s response has been “a blessing” since her efforts, as well as those of her team, are finally being rewarded. “Baby monkeys are the only ones who have the greatest chance of returning to the woods and it is very frustrating to know that, once they are healed and have readjusted to their natural environment, the possibility of being electrocuted once again is still present. The difference is that they are no longer babies and their chances of surviving are dramatically smaller”.

Steve and Vicky Coan remain skeptical. “We don’t want to get our hopes up with all this work done by the I.C.E., they had promised us to insulate the wires back in 2007 and it did not happen, so now we will just collaborate in any way we can without getting our hopes up”. Nonetheless, the glow in Vicky’s eyes gives away the feelings of hope that lie within her. The hope of not seeing more orphan baby monkeys dying of sadness.

Find out how you can help at nosarawildlife.com

More Regional News

The Regulatory Plan Starts – The Nosareños See a Better Quality of Life Through Development

• Agriculture and Industries are seen as sources of work
• Social welfare homes are being requested for the area's residents

For months we have been hearing about the need for a Regulatory Plan for Nosara. And so it seems that the moment has finally arrived and the process has started and which, according to the company hired to design and carry it out, INYPSA, will take at least two years. Representatives from the ASADAS and the Development Associations (Asociaciones de Desarrollo) from all the communities attended a meeting held on March 6th at the FUCAN. More >

Tourist Police Set Road Patrols After Robberies

Nosara’s new Tourist Police has been patrolling and escorting delivery trucks along the main road in order to prevent truck robberies since, during mid-January, two armed robberies took place on the road over the Río Frío, just 10 kilometers away from Samara’s gas station. More >

Lack of helmets is the leading traffic violation in the coastal areas

Driving a motorcycle without a helmet is one of the most common traffic violations made by drivers in the coastal areas that include Samara, Garza and Nosara.

During several routine operations done in different parts of these communities, transit police officers have been able to determine that drivers refuse to wear a helmet even if the new Ley de Tránsito (Transit Law) imposes a ¢220,000 colones ticket on those who do not wear one. More >

Elections for the School Board of the Nosara Elementary School have Not yet Been Held

On Tuesday, March 23rd, the election of the members of the School Board was cancelled for the third consecutive time due to a lack of quorum. 28 parents, out of the 70 to 80 parents that were needed, attended the meeting. For this reason Elias Cardenas, principal of the Escuela Serapio López, suspended the meeting. In response to the complaints on behalf of the parents who did take the time to attend the meeting, Cárdenas mentioned in a brief speech, “it is a shame that more parents did not show up for the meeting”. More >


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