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La Selva Biological Station :

One of the premier neotropical sites for biological studies, La Selva is a Mecca not only for scientists, but also hard-core birders and serious naturalists. The state-of-the-art laboratory facilities on the edge of the rain forest have allowed researchers at La Selva the opportunity to make many exciting new discoveries about the workings of this most incredibly complex and biologically diverse of all the planet's ecosystems. The more than 60 kilometers of well-maintained trails that crisscross the 1,536 hectare property allow excellent access to the forest.

La Selva is one of three biological stations in Costa Rica owned and operated by the Organization for Tropical Studies (O.T.S.), a consortium of some 50 U.S. and Costa Rican universities dedicated to furthering tropical research endeavors.

Christmas Bird Counts have been conducted annually at La Selva since 1985 and have produced a total of more than 420 species within a 14.5-kilometer radius that includes the lower portion of the Braulio Carrillo National Park extension as well as lowland areas surrounding the station property. Additionally, within the boundaries of the station, 25 species of lizards, 44 species of frogs and toads, 56 species of snakes, and 114 species of mammals (in large part, bats) have been reported, not to mention a staggering variety of plant and insect life. Some of the more commonly seen organisms include: Poison-dart Frogs, Green Iguanas, Giant Tropical Ants, Central American Agoutis, and the highly venomous Fer-de-lance.

Admission policy: Both day visits and overnight stays are possible, however, prior authorization is required. For overnight stays, contact the O.T.S. office in Moravia at 240-6696. Day visits can be arranged directly with the station at 766-6565. All daily visitors are accompanied by a local naturalist, whose fee is not included in the individual entrance fee.

Getting there: From San José, take the Limón highway through Braulio Carrillo National Park and upon reaching the lowlands take the first left turn, towards Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí. About 28 km. down this road, look for a covered bus stop on the left with the OET logo (Spanish for O.T.S.) around the sides of the roof. Turn left on the gravel road beside the bus stop and follow the road for about half a kilometer to the La Selva gate. (If you come to the bridge over the Sarapiquí River, you've gone too far.)

Public buses to Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí from San José will let you off by the bus stop, but make sure the bus goes via the new highway and not the old route through Heredia and Vara Blanca.

Climate: Very warm year-round, the temperatures are tempered by the amount of cloud cover that affects the area and also brings an average four meters of rainfall. The rains are spread throughout the year, but the rainiest periods are June - August and November - January.

History: The original 587 hectares that comprised La Selva were purchased in 1968 from tropical forester Dr. Leslie Holdridge, who had owned the property since 1953 and used it for experimentation with timber trees and crops such as cacao and peach palm. Even in 1968 access was an adventure consisting of a tortuous 4-hour drive through the mountains followed by a 4-kilometer ride in a dugout canoe to reach the site of the main building that had minimal creature comforts (but lots of creatures!) and no electricity or phone.

The importance of the site as a place for conducting tropical research inside a rain forest, combined with the urgency to understand these ecosystems caused by their greatly accelerated destruction during the 1970's and '80's, led to the transformation from those rustic beginnings to the modern facility that La Selva Biological Station is today.

The size of the property has tripled since 1968 with the acquisition of eight adjoining parcels throughout the years. Additionally, the creation of the Braulio Carrillo National Park extension in 1986 effectively connects La Selva with a forested elevational transect that stretches right to the top of Barva Volcano. Nevertheless, with rapid colonization of the Sarapiquí lowlands since the 1970's, conversion of rain forests to agricultural land has turned La Selva into a forested peninsula when not long ago it was part of a vast forested region.

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