Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download campus access dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this dissertation through interlibrary loan.

Dissertations that have an embargo placed on them will not be available to anyone until the embargo expires.

Date of Award


Access Type

Campus Access

Document type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation

First Advisor

Todd K. Fuller

Second Advisor

Paul Sievert

Third Advisor

R. Brooke Thomas

Subject Categories

Latin American Studies | Natural Resources and Conservation | Zoology


The Osa Peninsula is one of Costa Rica's most biodiverse areas with more large mammals than anywhere else in the country. During the last two decades, however, mammal species have been subject to illegal hunting pressure of unknown amounts. The goal of this dissertation is to investigate the knowledge and attitudes of villagers and local leaders of Osa Peninsula regarding large mammals and their use, and to compare various estimates of wildlife abundance to assess potential effects of human activities during recent years.

From surveys, 58% the 359 interviewees from 15 communities believe that in 1993 there were more wild animals than 2008. Paca is the most poached species, and second in importance is the white-lipped peccary. The main motivation for poaching is for local consumption, but 62% of interviewees strongly disagreed with the notion of poaching being a legitimate activity.

Interviews with local leaders indicated that 63% strongly agreed that wildlife persistence is important for the development of the area. They believe that deforestation, poaching, and gold mining are the main activities negatively affecting wildlife species on the Osa Peninsula. During 2001 and 2002 I estimated Relative Abundance Indices (RAI) of nine species of vertebrates from tracks in three sectors differing in human activity: gold mining, farming, and indigenous people's activities. I found that jaguar, puma, white-lipped peccary, tapir, and great curassow had lower RAIs in the mining sector. Other species such as collared peccary, red brocket deer, agouti, and paca were just as common outside the Park as inside.

I set up camera trap stations in the core and toward the edge of the CNP during 2003 and in the core of the park in 2008. There were few significant differences in the RAIs of the nine species near vs. far from the park, but abundance some species differed between years, likely a result of an increase in amount of patrolling by park rangers during that time.

The results of this study provide insights into perceptions and behaviors of local residents, and into wildlife population changes, that can be used in the conservation of the mammals species in the Osa Peninsula.