Date: Sat, 6 Dec 1997 10:48:34 -0600
Message-Id: <>
Subject: IRQ—Costa Rica 2/2: Cocos Island now belongs to mankind (fwd)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 5 Dec 1997 13:31:26 -0500 (EST)
From: Daniel Soto-Mayorga <>
Subject: Costa Rica: Cocos Island now belongs to mankind (fwd)

Costa Rica: Cocos Island now belongs to mankind

By C. Briceño & G. Chaves, La Nacion, [5 December 1997]

SAN JOSE—The value of its treasure was once more acknowledged and, although neither the pirates nor many a hunter were able to enjoy it, now Costa Rica is to share Cocos Island with the world at large.

This was decided yesterday by the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO), who declared the Cocos Island National Park a World Heritage Site.

The news was disclosed at a press conference summoned by the Minister of the Presidency, Marco Vargas, and the Vice Minister of the Environment and Energy, Marco Antonio Gonzalez. Also attending was Fernando Quiros, the chief of the island's park wardens.

At the conference, special mention was made of the late Joaquin Alvarado-Garcia, who died a few months ago while director of the park and one of the leading advocates of the declaration for the island.

The procedures leading to the declaration of World Heritage Site for Cocos Island began in 1983, thanks to the efforts of public and private institutions. However, in 1986 the appointment was rejected because of a lack of proper documented evidence.

Ten years later, a new request was filed and the UNESCO council agreed to analyze the case again. Earlier this year, two UNESCO experts visited the island and their report is considered by analysts as the key to the declaration.


Vice Minister Gonzalez pointed out that the UNESCO declaration entails a series of benefits for the preservation of the island's natural resources.

The park will have access to a vast array of projects and technical aid through cooperative programs, which involve training of the staff, studies to determine the cause of environmental deterioration, and conservation and management programs.

The official added that Cocos Island will now be entitled to financial aid from the World Heritage Fund, which receives donations from the member states of UNESCO and of private individuals and organizations.

The new status will enhance the protection of natural resources and at the same time will allow for more research on the flora and fauna of the island. Moreover, Vice Minister Gonzalez said, it will become even more attractive for scientists and tourists who constantly visit the national park from throughout the world, .

Treasure Island

Apparently, Cocos Island was discovered by Spanish sailor Joan Cabezas in 1526. Because of its wealth of coconut trees and plentiful drinking water, it became well known and served as a hide-away for the pirates and privateers who flourished along the Pacific Coast of Spanish America in the 17th and 18th centuries, according to the book, National Parks of Costa Rica.

The island became famous for the buried treasures hidden there by William Davies, Benito Bloody Sword Bonito, and William Thompson between 1684 and 1821. Tons of gold and silver have lured over 500 expeditions of treasure hunters but, according to the information available, nothing has been found. Some writers believe that Robert L. Stevenson drew his inspiration for his novel Treasure Island from tales of the treasures of the island.

Its fabled riches aside, the island boasts of unique flora and fauna which attract many international scientists and naturalists. Due to the great distance that separates the island from the mainland—some 300 miles from the continental Costa Rica—it is considered to be a natural laboratory for the study of plant and animal evolution.

The flora and fauna of the island, its true treasure according to scientists, includes over 235 species of plants, 70 of them endemic; 85 birds, three endemic; two endemic reptiles; three spiders; 57 crustaceans; over 200 fish; 118 sea mollusks; and 362 insects, 64 endemic. The coral reefs that surround the island include 18 species.

The island receives an enormous amount of rainfall and is completely covered with evergreen forest which becomes cloud forest at the highest point, Iglesias Peak, which is 634 meters (2,080 feet). The terrain is very rugged, which has led to the formation of several waterfalls, some of which plunge to the sea from spectacular heights.

The twisted coastline is a series of soaring cliffs, up to 183 meters (600 feet) high, and of innumerable underwater caves. The unusually transparent, turquoise-blue waters are filled with a wealth of marine life.

This is the treasure Costa Rica now shares with the world, Vice Minister Gonzalez added.