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Six unusual animals to look out for in Costa Rica

By Marike Lauwrens 11 months ago

Costa Rica is a dynamic country in Central America, known for its magnificent wildlife, stunning coastlines and volcanoes. The country has an abundance of tropical rainforests, jungles and endless golden stretches of Caribbean and Pacific beaches.

Needless to say, this location is an exceptional place to visit, especially if you are a nature lover! We have compiled a list of some of these unusual kinds of wildlife you can see in Costa Rica.

1) Collared peccaries

unusual animals costa rica

Original photo: Bernard DUPONT

A collared peccary looks like it could be distantly related to the animal commonly known to us as a pig, but take note, these animals are not classified in the pig family.

Collared peccaries belong to the family of peccaries, scientifically known as Tayassuide. These creatures are largely omnivorous, but mostly enjoy nibbling on leafy greens, making Costa Rica a perfect habitat for them. This strange species’ looks and behaviour has landed it some fitting aliases:

• They are known as “javelinas” thanks to their long, sharp, hidden tusks that look like javelins.
• Javelinas seem to be quite territorial too. They rub their oil glands against leaves, trees, or rocks to protect their territory. This musky smell has earned them the title of “musk hogs”.

2) Ocelot

wildlife in costa rica

Original photo: Brian Gratwicke

These felines look like a mix between a leopard and a house cat. This explains why it is also called a dwarf leopard. These nocturnal carnivores hunt frogs, turtles, rabbits, mice and fish, or, they take things to the next level and prey on monkeys and birds found in trees.

Interesting facts about ocelots:

• They have a distinctive, patterned fur and were once hunted to near extinction for this beautiful pelt. Nowadays, they are regarded as protected species in most countries.
• Unlike house cats, ocelots are avid swimmers.
• The ocelot has a gestation period of about 82 to 85 days and gives birth to two or three kittens that are born blind. They only start seeing after three or four weeks.

3) Strawberry poison dart frog

wildlife of costa rica

Original photo: Danel Solabarrieta

This colourful frog has a unique “chirp-chirp-chirp” call that makes it easy to trace (if the bright red colouring doesn’t catch your attention first). The most common form of these species are called “blue jeans” morphs. “Morph” means that it can change colour. The strawberry poison dart frog can change its colour from red and blue, to white with black spots on its back.

These little creatures are toxic and their colouration ability is their protection mechanism to indicate toxicity to enemies to avoid attacks.

4) Toucans

wildlife in costa rica


These beautiful tropical birds are quite sociable and are usually heard before they’re seen. Predators regard the toucan’s big bill as a threat, but does size really matter?

• Its bill doesn’t serve a particular purpose as a weapon, as it is a honeycomb of bone that is mainly filled with air.
• The bill’s usefulness comes into play when it’s lunchtime. It is used as a tool to reach for food on higher branches.
• Their bills are significantly smaller at birth and grow with age.

So we guess it’s accurate to say, the bigger the bill, the older the bird?

5) Jaguars

jaguar conservation

The Native American word for a jaguar (“yaguara”) means something along the lines of “pouncing killer”. They are the largest big cats in South America. These majestic mammals are only found in remote areas and face extreme habitat loss due to deforestation. If you have ever come across a jaguar in the wild, count yourself lucky, as they aren’t spotted very easily.

Interesting jaguar facts:

• Unlike lions, who live in prides, jaguars are mostly lone rangers, but a group of jaguars would be called a “prowl” or “leap”, mimicking their attack techniques.
• Females look after their cubs for at least two years to protect them from other animals.
• Their spots are called “rosettes” due to their rose shape.

6) Montezuma oropendolas

wildlife of costa rica


Original photo: Gary Leavens

With a name that is almost unpronounceable, the Montezuma oropendola’s melodic call sets it apart and forms a big part in its mating behaviour. These feathered creatures live in large colonies of hanging nests, their nests are woven and look like baskets.

How to identify a Montezuma oropendola:

• It is quite a large bird with chestnut coloured feathers.
• Their bills are orange at the tip and black towards their face.
Patches of white bare-skin are found on either side of its face, below the eyes.
• Be on the lookout for a bird with bright yellow tail feathers.

Costa Rica has some weird and wonderful wildlife living in its rainforests and jungles. Unfortunately, some of these animals are or were hunted to the point of near extinction and they and their habitats need to be protected.

There are some thrilling wildlife conservation opportunities where you can help conserve Costa Rica’s rainforest, and perhaps even spot these unusual creatures. Grab those binoculars and fine-tune your hearing and listen up as the jungle comes alive!

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