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On Saturday, April 30th, over 400 community members — or “Rainforest Heroes — from across southern Costa Rica convened to honor and celebrate outstanding leaders in conservation. Those honored are profoundly dedicated to the protection of the Osa Peninsula’s unique biodiversity.

“Each hero celebrated today shares a common goal: to protect the beautiful, wild home we share, the Osa Peninsula,” said Manuel Ramirez, co-founder of local NGO Osa Conservation and long-time local of Southern Costa Rica. “The heroes are here to receive the recognition they deserve for all of their marvelous, tireless work.”

These conservation heroes represent a wide breadth of backgrounds, ages, and identities, yet share a common mission: fighting for the protection of one of Earth’s greatest wilderness areas. The rainforest heroes have carried out the goal of conservation with a wide array of innovative strategies from sustainable farming, to coral and mangrove restoration, to species and land protection.

“It is incredible to be celebrated in front of so many. We are surrounded by people who fight day after day to conserve and protect the Osa Peninsula, an incredibly special place that we all call home,” said Dionisio (Nito) Paniagua upon receiving his recognition. Paniagua, an eco-tour guide and volunteer ranger, was crowned a “Rainforest Hero” for his dedication to the preservation of biodiversity. “I know that here, in this crowd, there are a ton of Rainforest Heroes who will soon be where I am now.”

Five short documentaries detailing each hero’s successes premiered at the event, all of which are now available on Osa Conservation’s YouTube channel.

“It was one of the most emotional, exciting days of my life,” said Socorro Avila, a leader active in coral reef restoration and local recycling efforts. “Never in my life did I imagine the celebration would be this beautiful.”

The celebration also included cultural dancing led by local youth groups, sales at the local farmer’s market, handmade crafts, and various activities such as bouncy houses and face painting. Additionally, the event featured environmental-centered booths, including one that donated 350 rare and native tree saplings to event-goers. Over a dozen local NGOs, local organizations, and government agencies worked in tandem to honor the conservation heroes alongside hundreds of attendees.

“Each of these heroes is an excellent example for future generations,” said Ramirez.

The family Paniagua Villalta, creators of a small sustainable farm to table operation known as Aviva Organic, were among those awarded at the celebration. The family runs the operation from their home in the Talamanca mountains. “Being named a Rainforest Hero is a great honor, and an immense responsibility,” said Xiomara Villalta. 

“I am so honored to be part of this place, part of these communities,” said Nito Paniagua “with these people who love our home and fight to protect it.” 

For more information:

Andrew Whitworth

Executive Director, Osa Conservation

Marco Hidalgo

Director de Comunidades

WhatsApp: +506 8843 0794

Lucy Kleiner

Communications Coordinator

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