Costa Rica is richer in biodiversity and contains more unique species than just about anywhere else on the planet.

Located between the North and South American continents, Costa Rica is home to a number of species from each continent, in addition to many that mixed together to create new species when the continents converged.

You probably already know about some of these animals, but many of them are unlike anything you’ve seen before (and are likely different from anything you’ll ever see again). And these the super out there, funky animals make Costa Rica’s wildlife more interesting and unique than that of any other country on the planet.


#1: The Sloth


Everything you’ve heard about sloths being lazy is no exaggeration. These extremely slow-moving animals spend most of their time upside-down in trees, sleeping for 16-18 hours every day.

Sloths are omnivores, eating a diet of leaves, flowers, and fruit as well as the occasional insect and small vertebrate. And don’t let that cute smile fool you – sloths can be quite feisty when it comes to protecting their territory. The two-toed sloth (as opposed to the three-toed sloth) is one of the many animals cared for at the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary.


#2: Strawberry Poison Dart Frog

This brightly-colored amphibian is poisonous in the wild, but not in captivity. Its natural diet of jungle elements gives it toxic defenses that the frog is incapable of developing when consuming a diet of store-bought bugs and nutrients. The Strawberry Poison Dart Frog only grows to be about 17.5 – 22 mm in length. They are very prevalent in the wild and are not in danger of extinction.


#3: Ocelot

The Ocelot (also known as a dwarf leopard) varies in length from 38 to 60 inches and weighs around 20-35 lbs, making it approximately twice the size of an average house cat.

Ocelots are extremely territorial, are capable of fierce fighting, and hunt mostly at night. These animals were once an endangered species after being killed off for their fur, but are now a species of least concern.


#4: Spider Monkey


Costa Rica’s spider monkeys live among the trees where they feed on a diet that consists mostly of fruit, making them extremely vulnerable to the effects of deforestation. Their tails are the strongest in the mammal kingdom, which they use to support their entire body weight when swinging between the trees of the Costa Rican jungle. The Spider Monkey was the first animal taken in by the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary and led to its inception.


#5: Golden Orb Weaver

These unique spiders are known for their strong webs which are sturdy enough to catch a small bird, though their golden silk is meant to lure in bees and camouflage with their surroundings. Golden Orb Weavers are extremely venomous (though not quite venomous enough to kill a person) and usually aren’t aggressive towards humans.


#6: Coati

The Coati is the racoon’s tropical cousin, differing in their long, bushy tail, dark face and long, pronounces snout. Coatis feed on small vertebrates, fruit, and insects. They are quite friendly towards humans and (despite the little data available on their population) are listed as being an unthreatened animal.


#7: Chestnut-mandibled Toucan

If this strikingly colorful and large-billed bird doesn’t happen to catch your eye, it’s loud “yo-YIP, a-yip, a-yip” is likely to catch your ear. The Chestnut-mandibled Toucan is the largest of its kind in Central America and is protected in the wild. Mating pairs stay together for an entire season, feeding on fruit in addition to insects and small animals.


#8: Tapir

This funny-looking animal belongs to the same order as rhinos and horses (Perissodactyla) which is made up of hoofed animals with an odd number of toes on each foot. Tapirs are Central America’s largest native mammal, growing to be 6-7 feet long and weighing around 600 lbs.

Tapirs are herbivores that feed on jungle vegetation (grass, leaves, fruit, etc.) as well as nutrients from the bottoms of riverbeds. They enjoy being close to water and can even walk underwater to feed! Tapirs grow to be 25-30 years of age and are recovering from once being close to extinction.


#9: White –Faced (Capuchin) Monkey

Capuchin monkey contemplating at Iguana Lodge

Capuchin monkey contemplating at Iguana Lodge

It’s nearly impossible to visit Costa Rica without running into this common Costa Rican creature. They live in troops ranging in size from 2-20 and feed on just about anything they can get their hands on.

White-Faced (Capuchin) Monkeys are the most intelligent of their kind. But be careful – these mammas can be aggressive and will sometimes swipe shiny objects or food away from humans.


#10: Jaguar

These elusive carnivorous animals hunt mostly at night and can grow up to 6-7 feet in length and weigh over 200 lbs, making them the largest cats in the world.

Jaguars are endangered due to deforestation and also usually avoid humans, making your chances of spotting one in the wild are very slim.

For more information on some of the animals listed above and more, check out the Osa Wildlife Sanctuary and consider supporting the many species of Costa Rican animals that are losing their natural habitats due to deforestation every day.

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