The Dreams (1989 to 1996)
The founder of Jardín Gaia, Dario Castelfranco, and his wife Cynthia Pensa, arrived in Costa Rica from their native Italy in 1989, originally to establish a botanical garden to conduct research and work toward the conservation of the many endangered species of orchids found in Costa Rica.
They soon realized that Costa Rican fauna was in as much need of attention as the country's flora, and wildlife soon became their primary concern. In 1991, Jardín Gaia was officially registered as a breeding center for former illegal pets confiscated by the Wildlife Service of Costa Rica's Ministry of Natural Resources.
The first goal of the newly founded center was to breed endangered species in captivity and release the offspring into the wild. It was soon realized that, if possible, it was more feasible to rehabilitate a confiscated animal, liberate it and let it reproduce in its natural environment. This is now the primary objective of Jardín Gaia.
The foundation of Jardín Gaia springs from the realization that, though legally protected, there are many threats to Costa Rica's endangered species and environment. Continued commercial development, increasing tourism, the illegal pet trade and other forces continue to take a heavy toll, and bring a risk of species extinction and further destruction of the area's natural resources.
Jardín Gaia is heavily involved in conservation at a local level. A chief focus of Jardín Gaia is on the squirrel monkey (Saimiri oerstedi citrinellus), an endemic primate native to Costa Rica's central Pacific coast. Another focus is on issues at the nearby Manuel Antonio National Park. For the last 4 years Jardín Gaia's director, Dario Castelfranco, has been appointed to the County of Aguirre Environment Commission, and has attempted to bridge the gap between conservation in situ and conservation ex situ.
Jardín Gaia is a judicial deposit for confiscated animals. An orchid conservation project is planned for August 1997 to save endangered species and provide income for local farmers.
Content quoted courtesy of: Jardín Gaia
Reality sets in (1996 to August 2000)
Jardín Gaia has closed for good. The project's research and veterinary equipment has been relocated to a similar project on the nearby Rio Savegre.
You can still browse the old site, or look at the photo album (pictures from 1996). I would like to keep this page here as a monument to the volunteers who helped run this project for almost ten years. In time I hope to see a full list of all the volunteers who worked on the project, perhaps with email addresses where known.
Are there any ex-volunteers out there who read these pages? Would you be interested in sending in some photos for additional photo albums? Please use the discussion forum for volunteer reunions? Let me know! (Eoin, March/April 1995, July 1997 and April 1999) Use the feedback form to send comments!
Dario Castelfranco, director of the project, is continuing with the orchid project, a bid to provide a sustainable international orchid supply and provide local employment. He is sorry for the way Jardín Gaia finished up, but is hopeful for the future. "Already we have bred many hundreds of orchid species. Although we currently have no requirement for volunteers, we will in the future, and a link to the homepage of the Orchid Project."
Content quoted courtesy of: Jardín Gaia
Although the project for Jardín Gaia closed, much research and assistance to both local orchids and local fauna will forever benefit mankind. It is with this focus in mind that the project for Gaia Hotel & Reserve has taken shape.
Although the property is extensive for a main tourist area, 5.7 hectares or 68,170 square yards, the total density per human being planned for the entire location, including employees, is of approximately 1 human being per 620 square yards.
The Gaia Hotel & Reserve project has as its foundations the preservation of the natural reserve for generations to come. It is our goal to provide a safe haven for the beautiful local flora and fauna that is being squeezed out by condominium and hotel developers.
Of 14.1 total acres, only 2.0 will be inhabited, leaving 12.1 in its natural habitat.