The Children's Eternal Rainforest (or “BEN”, Bosque Eterno de los Niños) exists thanks to fundraising efforts of children from around the world. Today, the BEN is Costa Rica’s largest private reserve, spanning 56,000 acres, and is home to an incredible amount of tropical biodiversity, including endangered species such as quetzals, three-wattled bellbirds, green-eyed frogs, tapirs, and jaguars.
The Children's Eternal Rainforest, nestled in the mountains of northwestern Costa Rica, was bought and protected thanks to fundraising by children from around the world. The initial effort by a group of Swedish primary school students in the late 1980’s quickly grew to include schools, individuals, and organizations from 44 different countries. Today the Children’s Eternal Rainforest is the largest private reserve in Costa Rica, spanning 22,600 hectares (55,800 acres). It is owned and managed by a Costa Rican non-profit organization called the Monteverde Conservation League.
The Children’s Eternal Rainforest (or “BEN”, after the Spanish “Bosque Eterno de los Niños”) provides clean air and water for drinking and agriculture to the communities that surround it. Hydroelectric projects fed by the BEN’s streams and rivers produce more than a third of Costa Rica's electricity. The reserve is the centerpiece of a larger block of protected areas that draws tens of thousands of visitors, providing the economic mainstay of thousands of local families.
It also harbors an off-the-charts proportion of the world's biodiversity.
The BEN straddles the continental divide, from around 900 meters (2950 ft) in elevation on the Pacific slope, up to more than 1800 meters (5900 ft) on the tallest ridges, and down to less than 400 meters (1300 ft) on the Caribbean slope. Along a roughly West to East transect through the BEN, climate traits such as temperature, rainfall, clouds, and wind vary enormously, creating a mosaic of different microclimates. A distance of just a mile can signify as much as a 90% change in species composition for many groups of animals and plants!
Though the BEN covers just 0.00015% of the world's land surface, it is home to a wildly disproportionate amount of the world's flora and fauna – including 2% of the world's orchid species, more than 3% of the world's butterflies, and almost 5% of the world's birds. Birds that depend on the BEN include almost 100 North American species that either spend the whole winter there, or pass through during their spring and fall migrations. Hundreds of thousands of North American birds (yes, really!) pass through the BEN during migration. The reserve is also home to numerous endangered and endemic species, as well as all six of Costa Rica’s wild felines, including the elusive jaguar.
Why should the world care about this biodiversity? For starters, it is the origin of all that we eat and much of our medicine. Of the top 150 prescription drugs in the US for example, 118 are derived from the natural world. Three-quarters of those prescription drugs are derived from plants, yet to date we have examined a meager 2% of the world’s plants for their medicinal potential.
But the main reason we should care about biodiversity is surely because of its intrinsic value. Imagine the world as an enormous mowed field, in the middle of which is a spring that gives life to all manner of plants and, in turn to animals. Who would wish to run a lawn-mower over that patch? Hopefully no-one. Why? Because that patch is so much richer and more interesting than the mowed field. It is our world's astonishing heritage. And we should all strive to protect it.
There are many valuable patches of nature in the world, but very few as biologically diverse as the BEN. And now we need your help to make it truly eternal.
The COVID19 pandemic has halted visitation (a major source of income) to the point where we are now in critical need of donations. We have cut our staff's working hours by half, across the board, which is impacting our ability to effectively protect the BEN. In the absence of donations, we will need to reduce hours still further and/or eliminate important positions in order to reduce the economic shortfall.
Moreover, these cutbacks are coming at the time when we most need to safe guard the BEN, as increased unemployment in surrounding communities has increased illegal poaching, logging, and capture of birds and other animals.
Many small donations are what created this incredible reserve in the first place, and your donation will help to keep it alive today.
Thank you for your support and we hope to see you in the BEN!