Costa Rica’s idyllic location, nestled cozily between two continents and two oceans, has guaranteed an unparalleled biodiversity. In total, the country is home to over half a million different species of wildlife, representing almost 4% of our world’s flora and fauna. Given its compact size, that is quite a remarkable amount. Among the kaleidoscope of animals that inhabit Costa Rica’s rain forests, mountains, valley, rivers and seas, a few standout for their incredibly unique characteristics.
Bizarre and Unique Animals:
Strawberry Poison Dart Frog
One of the most strikingly colorful creatures in Costa Rica, the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog is one of the most mesmerizing amphibians inhabiting the country’s rain forests, as well as one of its smallest. Growing to an average of only 2 centimeters (that is really very tiny) the gorgeous creature comes in different variations.
The most common is known as the Blue Jeans, thanks to its blue colored legs, but you’ll also find polka dot red or blue morphs (bastimentos) and ones with green legs and yellow stomachs, known as Chiriqui River frogs. Interestingly, the male does most of the egg rearing until they hatch, after which the mum will place each tadpole on a different pond (tiny droplets of water), where they are kept separated in order to prevent them from eating each other. It takes about 8 weeks for the tadpoles to transforms into beautifully vibrant frogs.
Like a real-life Puss in Boots, the Costa Rican Ocelot boasts possibly the sweetest eyes in all of the feline world. Known also as the dwarf leopard, the ocelot is about twice the size of an average domesticated cat, weighing in at about 30 pounds and measuring between 40 and 60 inches in in length.
Its distinctive fur made it a victim of hunters but their numbers are on the rise all over Central America and they are no longer listed as threatened. The ocelot’s extra-large round eyes hint at it being a nocturnal animal. Unlike other felines, it takes well to water and is an excellent swimmer, as well as a proficient tree climber. The Ocelot feeds off iguanas, birds, fish and frogs and is the second-largest spotted cat in Latin America, after the jaguar.
Costa Rican elephant beetles made international headlines a few years ago, when one intrepid wanderer managed to travel all the way to the UK among a bunch of exported bananas. The happy hitch-hiker was so well fed that by the time it crossed the Pacific it had grown to the size of a small hamster.
Closely related to the Scarab Beetle family, the elephant beetle is a formidable and territorial creature, one which protects itself and fights off fellow males by utilizing its rather unique tusk. Their appendages are not only fighting weapons. The elephant beetle using his horn to unlock sap from trees and dig up dirt under which he will seek refuge. As rotten and decayed wood is one of the beetles preferred meals, it is considered an essential creature for a healthy ecosystem, and one of nature’s most effective recycler.
This distinctive-looking frog’s proper scientific name may be hyalinobatrachium dianae, but since it was discovered in Costa Rica just a couple of years ago it has been known, worldwide, as the Kermit Frog. For obviously adorable reasons. Part of the rare and mesmerizing glass frog species, which boast such translucent skin that their internal organs are visible, Kermit is one of 13 such species of frogs in Costa Rica.
Jesus Christ Lizard
Many people may find it odd that a lizard was ever baptized with the name of Jesus Christ but all confusion soon dissipates as soon as the lizard starts running on water. The green basilik lizard, which is actually much more renowned by its moniker, the Jesus Christ Lizard, is not an endangered species and is commonly found performing its little miracle along rivers all over Costa Rica, and all of Central America.
When in flight, it can sprint upright over the surface of water at an astonishing rate of 1.5 meters per second. Its unique feet and toes allow for a much greater surface area coverage, creating small pockets of air that allow it to ‘hover’ over the surface, and not sink. However, the Jesus Christ Lizard can’t really keep up the trick for very long. Their short burst of aquaplaning usually only last about 3 seconds, after which the lizard will eventually sink and swim off with ease.
A cross between a wild hog and an anteater, but actually much more closely related to rhinos, the Costa Rican tapir is a funny little guy which is endangered in all the regions it inhabits. There are 4 different species found in the world, numbering just over 10,000 individuals in total. Deforestation and hunting are the main threats to tapirs outside of Costa Rica, and the fact that its gestation period is 13 months doesn’t help its repopulation. The tapir’s curious snout is used as a snorkel when it swims, and as a trunk to pick up leaves. In Costa Rica, the Baird’s Tapir is one of the country’s most protected animals, and a program designed to track and protect is the world’s longest-running program of its kind.
Let us whisk you away to Costa Rica on an adventure-filled wildlife spotting tour and come discover all of the country’s most magnificent creatures.