Stay at Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, for a week and you’ll never again complain how hard it can sometimes be to meet locals when you travel. We had visitors casually dropping in daily at Casa Elsa – families of friendly, white-faced Capuchin monkeys.
One day we also had a group of the cutest Mono Titi or red backed squirrel monkeys call in. Well, it was more like a home invasion, to be honest, but we’re not complaining.
When Susan, our concierge at Casa Elsa, picked us up to take us to a tree planting she’d invited us to, she was delighted to hear about our guests.
The Mono Titi are on the United Nations’ ‘red list’ of critically endangered species, and the reforestation event she was taking us to was aimed not only at conserving the natural environment that had been destroyed by cattle farming, but also about creating a biological corridor for the monkeys whose habitat had been destroyed by the development.
The tree planting had been organized by the Titi Conservation Alliance, which was established almost a decade ago by local tourism business owners who were on a mission to promote sustainable development and conserve the biodiversity of Costa Rica’s central Pacific region.
When we arrived at the site – a beautiful spot of lush farmland set amidst the breathtaking jungle – kids from three local schools were already there being briefed by the organizers on the aims of the exercise and some safety protocol.
After the adults had said their pieces, a child from one of the schools read a speech he had written: “Every tree you plant today will be food for these animals,” he said. And they were off! Today there were 650 trees to be planted.
“Our aim is to plant 40,000 trees in total,” Tey Arce, the Director of the Titi Conservation Alliance, told me, as we followed the kids as they ran along the corridor, stopping in groups of three and four to plant the saplings. “We’ve already planted 35,000, and it will take one more year to plant the rest.”
By the time we’d finished chatting about the project, the kids had planted most of the trees. It’s amazing what so many hands can achieve in such little time! Susan’s shovel had barely been used, and the boots she’d recommended we wear had barely been muddied.
Feeling a little helpless, I made an effort to push down the soil and firm up the area of earth around the young plants as I walked along the corridor.
We may not have done very much to help, but we were glad we had been there to see the kids faces and see them getting such a kick out of doing something that seemed so simple but was so important.
It may have represented nothing more than a day out of the classroom for many of them, especially the younger ones, but for others, it may have had a deeper effect and swayed them into thinking about forestry or biology as careers.
Or at the very least, simply persuaded them to help save those adorable little red backed squirrel monkeys from extinction.
So how can you help?
- If you’re staying at Casa Elsa, ask Susan if there’s a tree planting event or other activity scheduled while you’re in Manuel Antonio that you can attend.
- If you’re staying elsewhere, contact the Titi Conservation Alliance directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) – they’ll let you know if anything is happening that you can get involved in.
- If there are no activities on while you’re in the area, you can always make a donation. Your money will go towards protecting the breathtaking places you’re enjoying while you’re there, as well as helping to save from extinction those cute little guys who occasionally drop by when they’re in the area!