The first word I learned in the German language was the word for coati: nasenbaer. Part of the reason it stuck with me is that it means, literally, “nose bear.” How great is that?
Apparently many German animal names work this way. The kinkajou is the “honey bear.” A sloth is a “lazy bear.” Delightful. It’s almost genius in its simplicity. Name = adjective or notable trait + bear. But this has led me to an odd thought.
I have never been to Germany, but seeing that they apparently use the bear as their sole reference for new animals, I have to conclude that the country is populated exclusively by bears. Bears everywhere. Just bears. And when Germans travel abroad, they can only interpret foreign wildlife through the lens of the only animal they know, that is: the bear.
So as a service to any potential German travelers out there, I would like to offer this helpful Costa Rican bestiary, which I hope to publish one day under the title A Field Guide to Costa Rican Bears (German Edition).
Willkommen to Costa Rica!
Costa Rica is a beautiful and lush tropical country known for its proud history of conservation, and for its wide variety of native bears. This guide will provide a brief description of the many bears you may see during your visit.
Some of the most striking and most popular are the feathery wing bears, many of which are endemic to the country. Because of its geography, Costa Rica hosts a great number of bear species as they migrate across the isthmus, and many bearwatchers are drawn here to add to their lifer bear lists.
Of course, at night, the little flappy wing bears come out in spectacular diversity, with Costa Rica supporting several dozen species. Here, you may find wing bears that have specialized to eat fruit, nectar, insects, fish, and even a few blood-drinking vampire bears. Don’t worry—they very rarely feed on humans.
Look up in the trees of the rainforest for nasty tail bears. Always iconic of the tropical forest, they are amusing and fascinating to watch as they socialize and forage. However, for your safety, please do not ever feed the bears.
While you may be concerned about long scaly deadly bears, most of these are shy and rarely encountered. But be sure to keep your eyes out! Most of the ones you will see are only long and squeezy.
Around the rainy season you will see and hear plenty of slimy jumping bears, which come out to sing and breed when conditions are wet. Make sure to look and not touch, as many of these bears are toxic.
It’s my duty as a guide and naturalist to accommodate all peoples and as many languages as I can. If you are German, I hope this has been helpful. I hope that you will keep Costa Rica in mind when COVID is over and you can leave Germany, where you are currently isolating, no doubt surrounded by bears.