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So here it is…the World Cup Final (for Wildlife Tourism). Which team will be crowned world champions? Where is the best place to go and visit wildlife? Which country treats it animals the best? It’s all down to the last 90 minutes…

Final: Costa Rica v Ecuador

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

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.

Hunting

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.

Ecuador Wildlife – Highlights

Ecuador is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on its west coast, the Andes mountain range runs through the middle of the country, and the Amazon rainforest covers its eastern part. It is no wonder the country is home to spectacular wildlife. Capybaras, tapirs, jaguars, anteaters, pumas, ocelots and howler monkeys are just some of its animal residents. Moreover, the unique Galapagos Islands are also part of Ecuador. From giant tortoises and iguanas, to fur seals and dolphins, not to mention birds such as the cormorant and the blue-footed booby, the Galapagos are one of the world’s most astounding places. As this ecosystem is very fragile, please see our tips on wildlife watching here.

Country Specific Issues

Animals on the Menu

In the Northern mountain ranges the Tungurahua and Cotapaxi provinces of central Ecuador, guinea pigs are employed in the celebrations surrounding the feast of Corpus Christi as part of the Ensayo, which is a community meal, and the Octava, where castillos (greased poles) are erected with prizes tied to the crossbars, from which several guinea pigs may be hung. They are farmed throughout the country and are generally eaten on special occasions as they are expensive to buy. To read more click here.

Swimming with Wild Dolphins

The Galapagos Islands are a part of Ecuador and are well known for their wildlife and natural beauty. Two species of dolphins are frequently seen while touring the island – the bottled-nosed dolphin and the common dolphin. While many people see swimming with wild dolphins as a must-do activity, dolphins can actually be harmed by the practice. To read more about swimming with wild dolphins click here.

Match Report

It all comes down to these 90 minutes to crown the champion of wildlife tourism! Nature fans will be on the edge of their seats as they watch these two Latin American darlings battle it out. Costa Rica is definitely a fan favourite with an abundance of animals (both on land and sea), a quarter of its land dedicated to conservation, and a ban on hunting for sport. Then again, Ecuador offers spectacular animals, incredible scenery and one of the world’s most pristine island ecosystems, the Galapagos.  Too close to call…

Final Score

Costa Rica 2 v 2 Ecuador

It goes to Extra Time. It had to. In the extra 30 minutes, the two teams show off their prowess as bird-watching locations…will this decide it?

Costa Rica 4 v 4 Ecuador

No, it’s still level! It’s gone to penalties…

Both teams score their first two, courtesy of wonderful natural parks and a variety of species. Oh no, Costa Rica have missed one, as their policy on harvesting turtle eggs gets it all wrong…

Ooh, Ecuador miss one too, their treatment of guinea pigs is off target…

Both teams are back on the score sheet with their wide variety of species, then Costa Rica, with its hunting ban, scores again. It’s down to the last penalty…

Can Galapagos, the star player of the tournament, score again?

No! Galapagos has missed! Such a wonderful player but allowing tourists to get so close to the animals is potentially damaging for them…what a nightmare for Ecuador!

Final Score:

Costa Rica 8 v 7 Ecuador

Costa Rica win the World Cup for Wildlife 2014!