Named by National Geographic as “the most biologically intense place on Earth,” the Osa Peninsula is an isolated area on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. From the world-famous Corcovado National Park, teeming with exotic flora and fauna, to the rich waters of Golfo Dulce, a refuge for marine mammals and sea turtles, the peninsula is home to an unparalleled amount of biodiversity.
But Osa today is at a crossroads. Despite its natural beauty and conservation efforts, this globally significant area is under increased pressure from various threats that endanger its ecosystems. Deforestation, driven by illegal logging, unregulated and increasing development, and large-scale agriculture with unsustainable processes, poses a significant challenge to the region's biodiversity. Expanding networks of paved roads, continued gold-mining, as well as illegal poaching, adds to the growing concerns surrounding the Osa Peninsula. Meanwhile, unsustainable fishing practices, pollution, and climate change impacts, such as rising sea levels and coral bleaching, further jeopardize the peninsula's marine ecosystems. Without a foundation of science and up-to-date data, it is exceedingly difficult to assess Osa’s health, monitor changes over time, and implement the targeted conservation actions needed to safeguard its future.
Osa Conservation is on the frontlines of addressing these challenges, pushing the boundaries of technology to overcome the monitoring and protection challenges associated with one of the planet’s harshest environments – a lush and remote tropical rainforest. As the first organization to use EarthRanger in Latin America, Osa Conservation implemented the platform into its conservation workflow to streamline operations and connect their many technologies.
Conservationists and rangers receive automatic alerts in EarthRanger from their cutting-edge satellite services, such as NASA’s FIRMS and Global Forest Watch. These alerts provide near real-time information about wildfires and deforestation, enabling Osa Conservation to respond to threats and take proactive measures swiftly. By seamlessly integrating the largest camera trap grid in Central America – featuring an impressive array of 222 cameras deployed with the help of 30 local partners – with EarthRanger, conservation teams can remotely access and monitor the wealth of data captured by these cameras. The cameras are strategically placed in wildlife and illegal environment activity hotspots. Additionally, keystone scavengers and endangered megafauna like king vultures and the Baird’s Tapir are equipped with GPS tracking devices, moving across the landscape in EarthRanger. This targeted and data-driven approach provides critical data on species diversity, distribution, and abundance, guiding ecological management throughout the region. To further enhance their surveillance abilities, Osa Conservation is utilizing drone-mounted infrared cameras to patrol sea turtle nesting beaches vulnerable to poaching and predation, and monitor elusive canopy species. Each time their drones take flight, the data are collected and visualized in EarthRanger to help the organization take action.
“Protecting and monitoring tropical rainforests at scale and over the long-term is an ongoing conservation challenge, with the implementation of EarthRanger in Latin America we have been able to collectively receive and review multi-level data from a toolkit of technologies in real-time for conservation action “ - Eleanor Flatt, Movement Ecology Field Operations Manager, Osa Conservation
In addition to implementing these advanced technologies on the ground, Osa Conservation has established a coalition of volunteer rangers from the surrounding communities. Equipped and trained on EarthRanger, these 30 Rainforest Protectors serve as an invaluable complement, actively contributing to the conservation efforts on the peninsula. They have no weapons, but their presence, phones, cameras, and community connections allow them to alert law enforcement of any illegal activity quickly. Over the past year, these dedicated Rainforest Protectors have patrolled nearly 70,000 kilometers, or the equivalent of walking the circumference of Earth twice, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to safeguarding the Osa Peninsula for future generations.
Integrating iNaturalist, a citizen science app, into EarthRanger allows records of wildlife targeted by poachers and endangered and endemic wildlife to be combined with other data sources in real-time. The Osa Rainforest Protectors have now generated over 47,000 biodiversity observations in the past 2 years. It is particularly noteworthy that community members spanning all age groups, including those as old as 72, are actively using iNaturalist to help create useful data for Osa Conservation. Collectively, these individuals documented a staggering total of 100,046 observations of 7,079 species since 2019, encompassing a diverse range of wildlife such as birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.
From wildlife sightings to evidence of illegal activities, roadkills, and more, these manual reports are automatically collected and visualized through EarthRanger to provide conservationists in Osa with the ability to see all of their data on one screen, helping them make better-informed decisions and advocate for future conservation planning. With technology supporting the boots on the ground, Osa Conservation’s improved surveillance patrolling nearly 15,000 kilometers by foot in the last year and generating 273 reports in EarthRanger, has led to the arrest and prosecution of 25 people for illegal environmental offenses in the last year and a half and nearly 38 total arrests in over three years. Finally, via collaboration with a national authority operation in the fight against species trade, one restaurant was closed due to serving illegal bushmeat and seafood.
Implementing technology connected through EarthRanger has enhanced Osa Conservation's operational efficiency, streamlining data collection and facilitating faster and quicker analysis. This support elevates their conservation successes and assists them in addressing the region's data vacuum. While tropical rainforests globally are facing a decline, the Osa Peninsula stands as a beacon of hope. Thanks to the work of local communities and conservation organizations, the region is witnessing a resurgence of rainforest growth, the return of wildlife, and the rebound of critical ecosystems such as mangroves and wetlands