Costa Rica’s Curious Critters

From a place like no other in the world, come animals like no others in the world.  A few of the animals that can be spotted on California Native Costa Rica Explorer tours are the Jesus Christ Lizard and the Two- or Three-toed Sloth.

In Costa Rica, a two-toed sloth hangs lazily in a tree.Hanging upside-down from the branches of trees in Costa Rica’s lush rain forests, sleep the two and three-toed sloths. The Spanish word for sloth is perezoso, meaning “lazy”, and  sloths, who sleep around eighteen hours a day, live up to their reputation.

Because of their “lazy” or slow-moving nature, sloths live high in the forest canopy, which camouflages them from predators. They spend most of their time in the trees. By adulthood sloths are about as big as a medium sized dog. Their permanent smiling expression gives them almost human-like characteristics. These fascinating creatures can live up to thirty years. They begin reproducing at about age three and bear one baby a year.

Costa Rica is a wonderful place to observe and photograph sloths, because of the abundance of cecropia trees, which are the sloth’s favorite food. The leaves of these trees are spread out enough to make “sloth-watching” easy.

Basilisks are the other curious creature can be found on many Costa Rican rivers.  Here, you’ll see strange-looking lizards go charging from the banks, standing on their hind legs, running across the river—literally “walking on water.”

Costa Rica's 'Jesus Christ' lizards can walk on water.Basilisks, aka “Jesus Christ lizards” refer to the legendary monsters whose breath and glances were fatal to those unfortunate enough to encounter them. Basilisks are quite large, as lizards go, up to three feet long, and the males have large crests on their heads, backs, and tails. This, and the fact that they run on two legs, makes them look like little dinosaurs.

The name Jesus Christ lizard refers, of course, to their ability to walk on water. They do this by running very quickly over the water’s surface on their large hind feet, which have flaps of skin along each toe. This ability is best developed in young lizards, who can run twenty yards or more over the water without sinking. The ability to “walk on water” helps the basilisks catch food and escape from predators.

Basilisks eat almost everything, including insects, shrimp, scorpions, other lizards, snakes, fish, small mammals, birds, flowers and fruit.

Their only natural enemies are raptors, opossums and snakes, who view the basilisks as potential dinners. To protect themselves while they sleep, the basilisks bed down in vegetation overhanging water, and, when the vegetation is disturbed, dive to safety.

Come with us to Costa Rica and meet the Jesus Christ lizards as well as the many other exotic birds and animals that dwell in the forests and rivers of this magical little country at the center of the Americas.

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