Monday, April 24, 2006

Lost Costa Rica minister found with tapir bite

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, energy and environment minister, getting off from a police helicopter after he was found. (Photo: Rafael Pacheco/Al Dia)SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) - Search parties found Costa Rica's missing energy and environment minister on Saturday suffering from a nasty bite by a wild tapir, after he got lost in a jungle reserve two days earlier.

Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, 46, was found in the Sirena section of the Corcovado National Park in southern Costa Rica after getting separated on Thursday from a group of ministry employees which was patrolling the park for poachers.

The minister was taken to hospital in San Jose to treat a tapir bite in his side, Interior Ministry spokesman Benigno Rodriguez said.

"He was bitten by the tapir, otherwise he was in good health," he said.

Corcovado National Park, located on the Osa Peninsula near Costa Rica's border with Panama, is home to a myriad of wild animals, including jaguars and peccaries, whose numbers are being threatened by poaching.

The ministry patrol in Corcovado's 162 square miles (420 sq. km) of virgin rainforest was part of a government crackdown on poachers. Rodriguez is a keen conservationist and outdoorsman.

Costa Rica's lush, wildlife-filled National Parks are one of its main attractions for tourists, the country's top source of foreign exchange income. Hikers can easily get lost by wandering onto the wrong path, however.

Tapirs are generally shy and do not attack humans, tending to crash off into the bush when threatened, but when scared they can defend themselves by biting with very powerful jaws and large sharp teeth.

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