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It’s time for the semi-finals. The tension is high…and as Brazil have found in the real World Cup, there is no room for error. Who will make it to the final of the World Cup for Wildlife? Not just the country that is best for wildlife tourism, but also the country that doesn’t have practices, traditions or activities which harm animals. So who’s going to make it through to the Final..?

Next up: Costa Rica v USA

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.

USA Wildlife – Highlights

The US has too much wildlife to cover here, with close to 52 million acres protected by national parks. Suffice to say, whether it’s going for a trek in a forest, watching for eagles on a mountain or enjoying whales off the coast, there’s something for everyone.

Country Specific Issues

Animals on the Menu – Shark Fin

Despite the mounting criticism, the Asian delicacy, shark fin, is still available in parts of the USA. Tourists should be careful to avoid any meal including shark fins. The most commonly available dish is likely to be ‘shark fin soup’, typically offered in Asian restaurants.  New York has recently introduced a proposed shark fin ban and California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington are enacting similar bans that were passed last year, while Florida, Illinois, Maryland and Virginia have legislation pending. Read more about shark fin soup here.

Animal Attractions – SeaWorld

SeaWorld in Orlando is notorious for its marine animal performances. Before capturing cetaceans in US waters became illegal, SeaWorld was known to capture wild animals, removing them from their families to perform for tourists. Although this practice has now been prohibited, SeaWorld continues to attract international condemnation for its training practices and animal welfare standards. Read more about aquariums here or see the news section below for details of SeaWorld documentary Blackfish.

Comment from Barry W on TripAdvisor about SeaWorld San Diego:

“Just saw the documentary, “Blackfish”…very interesting how one of sea world’s orcas has killed or hurt at least 3 trainers…it is no wonder…if you were held in a closet or prison cell for your life, you, also would go crazy…please use your summer entertainment money to go elsewhere…really sad for all the orcas, and the blatant lies and cover ups SeaWorld gives as excuses…”

Cruel Sports – Rodeo

Rodeos are a major tourist attraction in the USA, with an estimated 10,000 events held across the country each year. Marketing tactics usually imply that visitors will get to experience historical ranching practices and a little bit of the ‘old West’ heritage, however, these attractions can cause severe animal welfare problems and high risks to human participants and even spectators. To read more about rodeo click here.

Match Report

The stadium will be a sea of red, white and blue as spectators cheer on these two great wildlife destinations. Costa Rica is definitely a fan favourite with an abundance of animals (both on land and sea), lots of national parks and a ban on hunting for sport. Then again, the sheer size and untouched landscapes of the U.S. national parks make it a premier place to spot wildlife up close. Yet, deforestation and illegal hunting in Costa Rica, and cruel sports in the U.S., could end up distracting some key players.

Final Score

Costa Rica 3 v 3 USA

With the emphasis on attack, both countries score highly in the first 90 minutes, so it goes to extra time…

Oh my word, a tactical error from the US – they’ve brought on SeaWorld as a final gambit – big mistake! Controversy over the conditions for dolphins and orcas make this the biggest World Cup gaffe since the Suarez Bite…

Costa Rica 4 v 3 USA after extra time!

Costa Rica are in the final…but who will they play?