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Travel: New flight plan a pathway for avian survival

Central American protected zone first of its kind

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By Chris Higgins, Margo Malcolm & Jamie Gripich

Staring up into the rainforest canopy, it s almost like looking into a living Impressionist painting, your eyes dazzled by the flash of colours, your ears picking up the extroverted squawks and screeches of green and blue coloured Macaws, orange and green Motmots, and multi-hued Toucans.

You re in Central America s first bird route. Now the 400-plus bird species that inhabits the Sarapiquí region of Costa Rica will have a greater chance of survival, and birders from around the world get a chance to see these grand winged masters of the sky.

A Pathway to Survival

At roughly the size of West Virginia, Costa Rica has a greater variety of bird species than all of North America. It is home to five per cent of all the world s known animal and plant species, including 850 bird species.

The Costa Rican Bird Route is the brainchild of the Rainforest Biodiversity Group, and partially funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The route consists of 12 birding sites, teaming up established and newly created biological reserves, to offer a variety of bird watching opportunities and programs in the San Juan-La Selva Biological Corridor of northeastern Costa Rica.

The birdwatching industry is a global phenomenon, and has seen the largest increase in participants over the last 10 years. Birding is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in the U.S., and according to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 51.3 million Americans report that they watch birds. And more are taking it up all the time.

The first of its kind in Central America, the Bird Route not only gives visitors access to primary rainforest, but also gives land owners access to tourism income and an alternative income to other activities that are not as environmentally sustainable.

We want to be able to provide a way for locals to sustain their forests,” explained Andrew Rothman, president and founder of the Rainforest Biodiversity Group. “If we can take a little bit of pressure off of them by providing an economic alternative, we think that is a good thing.”

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