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Promoting Care for Whales and Dolphins in Tropics

By Néfer Muñoz*

The Costa Rican Pacific coast is the only place where two large populations of humpbacked whales meet, one from the north, the other from the south.

PUNTA MARENCO, Costa Rica - The Organization of Tropical Studies (OET), consisting of 64 universities from seven countries, is conducting a series of "bio-classes" in Costa Rica to educate children and adults about the conservation of biological diversity, which includes efforts to protect whales and dolphins.

"Our mission is to foment the rational use of natural resources," marine biologist Roberto Baca, a program assistant, told Tierramérica.

Baca, 28, a Nicaraguan national, said that through the OET initiative, created by universities from Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Peru, South Africa and United States, some 4,500 have received education in 34 areas over the last two years, in specific areas such as orchids, amphibians, organic agriculture and medicinal plants.

But one of the favorites is the course on whales and dolphins. OET representatives organize two-day visits by boat to Drake Bay, on the southern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, 400 km south of the capital.

"This course is really great and I'd like to come back," Philippe Karolicki, 10, participant in one of the visits, told Tierramérica. In Drake Bay, Karolicki, alongside 42 other people, learned that the humpback whale belongs to the group known as cetaceans, which breathe through lungs but can remain underwater as long as 30 minutes.

He also learned that the orca, also known as the killer whale, is really a large dolphin, and that cetaceans have lightweight bones filled with oil, which allows them to float. The species in this group can swim 10 to 60 km per hour.

The Pacific Ocean off Costa Rica is the only place in the world where to large populations of humpback whales meet for reproduction. One group comes from the waters off North America, and the other from South America, instructor Frank Garita told Tierramérica.

The OET seeks to raise public awareness about the dangers that threaten the survival of whales and dolphins, such as unregulated hunting, pollution and the alteration of their nature habitat.

"When one learns to appreciate biodiversity, one realizes that here nothing more is needed," commented Ileana Rodríguez, who, with her husband, left the city to run an ecotourism hotel in Punta San José, near Drake Bay.

There are no televisions there, or air conditions, or other comforts of the city, but from the cabins set on a hill near the sea, one can occasionally catch sight of whales and dolphins on their way past.

* Néfer Muñoz is an IPS correspondent.

Copyright © 2001 Tierramérica. Todos los Derechos Reservados

Spotted dolphins, typical of the tropics. Photo credit: Photo Stock
Spotted dolphins, typical of the tropics. Photo credit: Photo Stock

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