Field Crew Photo
©John Polisar
Nicaraguan Landscape Photo
More than 50 volcanoes adorn the Nicaraguan landscape.
©John Polisar
Saving Sea Turtles in Nicaragua Photo
On Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast, WCS researchers work with local communities to save sea turtles.
©Cynthia Lagueux

Nicaragua is a land of lakes and volcanoes. Bounded on the west by the heavy surf of the Pacific Ocean and on the east by the Caribbean Sea, the country’s third coastline is in its center and that of the vast, freshwater, volcano-adorned Lake Nicaragua. The mountainous spine bisecting the country includes areas where coffee and cattle production dominate the cloud forests. To the east, in the Caribbean drainages and plains, communities are scattered and few. There, nature dominates. Nicaragua’s tourism industry is not as well developed as some of its neighbors. Hearty travelers, however, enjoy an extent of wilderness rarely seen in most of Mesoamerica. Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast hosts the world’s most important feeding grounds for the green sea turtle. Small, coconut-covered cayes dot this wild coastline, with shallow waters extending far out into the crystalline sea.

Fast Facts

  • Nicaragua has more than 50 volcanoes and well-preserved colonial cities.
  • Nicaragua’s 83 protected areas cover nearly 20 percent of the country, which is Central America’s largest.
  • The country’s two largest reserves are the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve and the Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve, with core areas of about 2,900 square miles and 1,700 square miles, respectively. They border Honduras and Costa Rica creating bi-national nature reserves in both the north and south.
  • Miskitu and Mayanga communities inhabit Bosawás Biosphere Reserve’s indigenous territories, where they function as local management authorities.
  • Despite a history of political turbulence and high poverty levels, Nicaragua is the safest country in Central America.


With enormous wild regions, where jaguars ply waterways and huge trees overlook vast forests, Nicaragua’s most protected areas are the remote core zones of the Bosawás and Indio-Maiz Biosphere Reserves. A major threat facing these wild areas is poverty and population growth, which can drive uncontrolled agricultural expansion and over-hunting by a hungry populace. Vast expanses of unpopulated and unprotected wild lands are still found along the Nicaragua’s Caribbean coastal plain, but with limited oversight, they risk being converted into African palm plantations.

WCS Responds

WCS partners with the indigenous associations and government agencies active in Bosawás to preserve its tropical forests and the wildlife that depends upon them. Our work in Bosawás continues that of the USAID-supported initiatives of The Nature Conservancy and the Saint Louis Zoo. We have taken inventories of birds, plants, reptiles, and amphibians, evaluated jaguar populations, monitored wintering migratory birds, and studied the impacts of subsistence hunting on wild game populations. Additionally, we have provided environmental education materials to primary and secondary schools. We are now training indigenous para-biologists in forest inventory methods as well as facilitating patrols to limit incursions of hunters from outside the territories. We are also working to reduce jaguar attacks on livestock. To further protect the big cats, we evaluated their populations in southern Nicaragua and provided logistical support to the Panthera Foundation in order to clarify jaguar priority areas along the Caribbean coastal plain. With ongoing projects in adjacent protected areas of Honduras, WCS is active in both side of the Honduras-Nicaragua Reserva Biosfera Tranfrontereza, the bi-national Biosphere Reserve known as the Heart of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.

From the Newsroom

There and Back Again: One Sea Turtle’s Incredible Journey July 25, 2012

Although conservationists have long known that turtles return to their natal beaches to lay eggs, direct evidence of these pilgrimages is scant. With sea turtles more imperiled than ever, conservationists can’t help but delight in success stories like this one.

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