Wow, it’s the Quarter Finals of the World Cup for Wildlife! Tense? You should be – there’s a lot up for grabs!  We want to find out who, among the World Cup teams, can call themselves the World Champions of Wildlife Tourism…that means they must be a wonderful place for tourists to go and visit wildlife, without too many ‘problems’ that might put people off. Enough waffle…on with the game!

Next up: Brazil v Costa Rica

Check out the highlights and issues around wildlife tourism in each country below (all information taken from, then read our Match Report at the bottom to find out the score!

Brazil Wildlife – Highlights

Brazil is perhaps one of the planet’s best destinations for wildlife lovers. It is home to 60% of the Amazon Rainforest and has the most known species of freshwater fish and mammals (such as the giant anteater, the capybara, howler monkeys, the puma). It is also ranked third for the most number of bird species – among the best known are the toucans, parrots, and hummingbirds. The best place to spot wild animals and an incredible array of birdlife is the Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland ecosystems. There are also the Iguaçu National Park (home to the impressive Iguaçu Falls) and the Tijuca National Park. For birdwatchers, Itatiaia National Park (north of Rio de Janeiro) and Alto Paraiso in the southern Amazon are fabulous spots to see more unique species. The areas of Bahia and Santa Catarina are great destinations for whale watching as they migrate north in search of warmer waters.

Country Specific Issues

Deforestation in the Amazon Basin

Forests, the size of a small country, are destroyed every year through extensive legal (and illegal) logging. Since 1970, over 600,000 square kilometers of the Amazon Rainforest have been wiped out. Along with it, many wildlife species have lost their habitat and are becoming endangered. Extinction has become even more problematic in the Atlantic Forest, where over 90% of the forest has been cleared.

Illegal Wildlife Trade

According to Brazil’s National Network Against the Trafficking of Wild Animals (RENCTAS), 38 million animals are poached from Brazilian forests every year. Even though nine out of ten animals die in the process of being caught or during transportation, Brazil still maintains a 15 percent share of the illegal wildlife trade market. Birds are the most sought after by traffickers, with some sold live and others killed for their feathers or body parts. Reptiles (highly valued for their skins) and mammals (mostly primates) are also targets.

Stray Animals

Major cities like the capital city Brasilia, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have large numbers of stray animals. There are nearly 150,000 stray cats and dogs in Rio de Janeiro alone. Many roam the streets in very poor conditions – sick and injured. Many dogs face unimaginable cruelty by being poisoned, beaten, denied medical treatment and intentionally run over. If you encounter stray animals, you could consider giving them some food and water, but avoid interacting with the animal too closely as rabies is still a problem in certain areas of Brazil.

Costa Rica Wildlife – Highlights

Despite its small size, Costa Rica is believed to possess the highest density of biodiversity of any country worldwide. Its variety of wildlife can be attributed to its numerous ecosystems and its twelve climatic zones. The government has pursued an aggressive agenda to protect this diversity, setting aside over 27% of its land for conservation. Corcovado National Park is the largest park in Costa Rica and is widely considered the crown jewel in its extensive system of national parks. National Geographic has called it “the most biologically intense place on Earth in terms of biodiversity”. Visitors can expect to see an abundance of wildlife including sloths, monkeys, frogs, and birds.  The country’s ocean diversity is as fantastic with a variety of whales, dolphins and fish. Costa Rica has the longest season for humpback whale watching in the world.

Country Specific Issues

National Parks

A lot of Costa Rica’s biodiversity can be found in the extensive national parks. These parks cover 25% of the country’s area – the highest in the world (compared to an average of 13% for developing countries, and 8% for developed). Another achievement of the country was to reduce its rates of deforestation from among the worst in the world down to almost zero by 2005, although recently it appears to have returned as a problem.

The Corcovado National Park is world-renowned for its biodiversity, including the four species of Costa Rican monkey. The Central American Squirrel Monkey is testament to the conservation work being done in the country – considered endangered for many years, its status was upgraded to vulnerable in 2008. Illegal pet-trading, deforestation and hunting are still causes for concern however. Read more on National Parks here.


In another forward-thinking step, Costa Rica looks set to become the first Latin American country to ban hunting. In a landmark ruling set to take place in October 2012, the government looks set to call a halt to the ‘recreational sport’ which puts paid to many of the country’s most ‘desirable’ animals – jaguars, pumas and turtles. Environment activist Diego Marin summed up: “We’re not just hoping to save the animals but we’re hoping to save the country’s economy, because if we destroy the wildlife there, tourists are not going to come anymore.” Around 300,000 tourists each year visit the country’s national parks. Read more on hunting here.

Match Report

Despite being of very different sizes, Brazil and Costa Rica are home to breathtaking landscapes and amazing wildlife. Both countries are very popular with nature lovers, but the game’s outcome could come down to penalties – Can Brazil overcome its thousands of stray animals and its large share of the illegal exotic bird trade?  Or will Costa Rica fall short due to deforestation and its own illegal pet trade?

Final Score

Brazil 4 v 4 Costa Rica

What a game! And it’s extra time…

Brazil 5 v 5 Costa Rica

And it’s penalties…what can separate these sides?  One mistake, or a moment of genius? Oh, Costa Rica’s keeper pulls off a magnificent save, thanks to over a quarter of the country’s land area being dedicated to conservation…

Brazil 9 v 10 Costa Rica. The hosts are out!