A mission for nature conservation
In the heart of the jungle of southern Costa Rica, systemic solutions to conservation are connecting nature, science, and people. Refugio Tinti is an incredible example of the resiliency of the land and its stewards as a once-contaminated rice monoculture farming area has been made into a biodiverse wildlife sanctuary.
In 2016, Alexander Tinti founded the Refugio Tinti and has since transformed 24 acres of endangered swampland into a thriving ecosystem. It is a collaborative effort between the Refugio team and their local community, government, and NGOs. Like they approach solutions holistically, they draw from a diverse pool of support to achieve their vision for a healthier world.
Refugio Tinti is a custodian of Lemu and through our partnership, we hope their work can be amplified, and with more resources, their initiatives are only made stronger.
“Our mission is to restore and maintain ecosystems, to enhance biodiversity, and, within this framework, to create economic stability,” said Mario Stepanik, public relations, fundraising, and new project manager at Refugio Tinti.
Their main conservation projects are:
- Systemic reforestation
- Permaculture education
- Diversification of monocultures
Their philosophy is that healing natural environments and healing human societies should be done together to make lasting change. They approach all their projects with this systemic mentality, knowing that our natural ecosystems include us, and they are impacted by how we live and use the land.
Living in harmony with the land
So how do those at the sanctuary live in harmony with the land?
Everything is made and done with great intention. By using white teak trees, an invasive species that are harmful to native plants and animals, they have built structures in which to live, while also helping to reduce the impacts of this environmental issue. In following sustainable architecture they also avoid using electricity because it could harm wildlife. Using compost toilets is another way in which those at the sanctuary work in tandem with nature to fertilize the land with micro-organisms and minimize human impact.
“By abstaining from electric lights and continuously closing as many regenerative cycles as possible we are thriving to be a positive member of the ecosystem rather than a neutral, let alone a parasitic one,” said Alexander Tinti in a published interview with MAHB, an initiative with Stanford University.
There are many sustainable agriculture methods Refugio Tinti uses in a web of interconnected activities and initiatives. Here are a few highlights of their efforts:
- Growing strong herbs alongside vegetable gardens to deter insects without using harmful pesticides.
- Planting species threatened by extinction in soil bags with worm compost.
- Leaving weeds in their food forest to replenish nutrients in the soil.
- Planting Mexican Sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia) to draw phosphorus from the soil and take nitrogen from the air.
- Creating shallow wildlife ponds to honor the natural wetland ecosystem and support water-reliant species.
You can see all of their initiatives in their interactive map here: https://www.refugiotinti.com/map/
Biodiversity at the sanctuary
Supporting biodiversity is another key aspect of the work at the sanctuary. Costa Rica is estimated to be home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity due to its climate and location nestled between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Yet, Costa Rica isn’t exempt from the issue of wildlife extinction.
This is why protecting endangered species is especially important at the sanctuary. They even have a night guard to watch out for predatory animals and to safeguard the safety of all those who call Refugio Tinti home.
These are the key species Refugio Tinti protects:
- Boat-billed heron (C. cochlearius)
- Curassow (Crax rubra)
- Grison (Galictis vittata)
- Jaguarundi (Herpallurus yagouaroundi)
- Neotropical river otter (Lontra longicaudis)
- Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)
One of these species, the jaguarundi is especially endangered due to poaching and loss of their natural habitats. This animal is unique because it is the only wild cat in Costa Rica that is active during the day. Jaguarundis are important to the ecosystem because they maintain levels of small mammals and birds they hunt as prey as well as regulating amounts of pests that impact agriculture.
Their work goes deeper than what you can see. There is research and reason behind everything, because just like roots under the surface, at Refugio Tinti Alexander and the team value finding the root causes of issues and addressing those problems holistically.
Lack of education, population growth, and poverty are all root causes of environmental degradation. Identifying the “why” behind this degradation is important because all health and environmental issues are interconnected and solutions need to be made addressing whole systems rather than singular issues.
For example, monoculture farming where only one type of crop is planted is a contemporary solution to the demand for cheap food to address higher population and poverty, but because it doesn’t account for the health of ecosystems this method results in erosion and depletion of nutrients in the soil.
Refugio Tinti highlights a way that nature corrects for some of the damage from monoculture farming. Nature’s solution is brilliantly simple: weeds. While weeds have come to be commonly seen as a nuisance, they actually draw nutrients up to the surface of the soil. Our Earth is wise. By learning from the way it heals itself, we can better learn how to be sustainable stewards like those at Refugio Tinti.
Long-term Refugio Tinti looks to establish an ecovillage in La Gamba, Costa Rica, with a permaculture education center. Through a community-led effort, they look to foster a healthy way of working and living with the land and improve the quality of life for all there.
You can support Refugio Tinti when the Lemu app goes live in early 2023 by adopting a cell of its ecosystem.
You can get involved directly at Refugio Tinti by volunteering and staying in their bungalows on the property while working with the land. Furthermore, they accept researchers to learn from their initiatives as well as offer tours and booking in their guest house for those who want to learn more and see the sanctuary firsthand.
At Lemu we value highlighting the work of others that supports a healthy planet. We hope that the more conservation stories we can share, the more we can all be inspired to help our planet.