Volunteer Blog: Noah Theodore Ardron 

I decided to come on this project because I wanted to get away from home and I thought there’s no better place than Costa Rica.

I have enjoyed living in a remote jungle and living as a group which eventually becomes a family.  I originally didn’t like the cold showers but I have come to really appreciate them after a hard day of surveys. Meals on camp are nearly always great: I really enjoyed the Calzones, Empanadas and stuffed peppers and roasted veg.

I really enjoy the Neotropical River Otter surveys which we do on the North and south of the Rio Piro. I love being on the river and in the water. The otter is a very illusive animal so it is all the more rewarding when you see one.

I've visited the nearby bird sanctuary many times. I love Patrick and Rubyann the people who own Ave Azul De Osa. They are such interesting people and they have both done everything there is to do in life, they’re AMAZING. The birds he breeds are fantastic not to mention the beautiful trails there are to offer around the area. I will definitely go back again before I leave.

On my time off, I went Kayaking in the nearby town – Puerto Jimenez, which I would highly recommend; You can paddle out to a reef about 45 minutes out into the gulf and go snorkelling if you want to. 

My favourite animal sighting by far- THE OTTER!! After about 60 hours on both rivers I eventually saw an otter for a good minute. It swam around and popped its head up a few times. The Osa Peninsula is the most bio diverse place I have ever had the pleasure of staying, I consider myself so lucky for having the chance to see the things I have seen. Once I leave in a few weeks I know that what I will most will be the people.

By Noah Theodaore Ardon, volunteer

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.


Conservation debate: Jaguars vs. Turtles

This week our conservation debate asked whether Jaguars or the Green Turtle should receive more conservation efforts. Being in Costa Rica, this is an issue very close to many of our hearts. Jaguars are currently classed as Near Threatened according to the IUCN Red List. Whereas the Green Turtle is considered worse off; being described as Endangered - two steps up from Near Threatened.

There were some great points raised; firstly it was argued that a lot less is currently known about Marine life meaning that any opportunity to try and learn more should be taken. Though the team fighting for jaguars countered this by saying it only meant that you therefore can’t predict the success of any conservation efforts.

The biggest problems currently threatening jaguars is human conflict and habitat destruction. As jaguar’s natural prey decreases and the natural habitat is replaced by farms, then they start to choose an easy meal – by targeting cattle. Naturally this causes problems with the local farmers, who only see Jaguar’s as a threat to their livelihoods.

This problem can begin to be tackled by working with local people to try and find other ways to solve the issue without the jaguars being killed. This is something Frontier has recently been working on, carrying out interviews with local farmers and business owners to determine how big the problem really is. Corridors are one way to solve the problem, so that the jaguars are safe whilst they move between protected areas. There is currently an initiative called Panthera which is working across governments from Argentina all the way up to Mexico, to create these safe passageways for the big cat.

Turtle conservation is needed to both help protect nesting females and their eggs and to reduce pollution and the effects of climate change. Turtles have lived on earth for the last 100 millions years but their survival rate is low. Many nests are predated both by natural predators and by people and dogs. This can be reduced by protecting nests with meshes, by moving threatened nests to a hatchery and by patrolling beaches to dissuade potential poachers.

The problem continues after birth however, as large amounts of rubbish in the oceans cause harm to the turtles and badly designed fishing nets trap them. By recycling plastics and by using special nets, both of these problems can be reduced. Turtles also make life hard for themselves, by reaching sexual maturity much later than many animals, giving them less time to reproduce.

During our debate, it was argued that because Jaguars eat turtles, that by conserving the turtles, it can only stand to also help the jaguars. It was further suggested that turtles play a hugely important part in the eco system of coral reefs – the most bio-diverse areas of the world. However those on the Jaguar’s side, believed that because climate change plays a part in the turtle’s decreasing numbers that it made it a much harder problem to solve. Rising temperatures cause a sex bias, because warmer eggs will change the gender.

The conservation of both species, however would involve mass communication across countries, and just because an issue is a large and complicated one, doesn’t mean we should not attempt to tackle it.

The jaguar is an apex predator – meaning that they are at the top of the food chain. This means they eat a wide range of animals and their extinction could cause problems to the whole of the food chain and change the vegetation of the area. This could also be true of turtles however, as they eat algae and seagrass. But as they are not the only creature to do so, the effect may be less.

Those on the turtle team raised a very good point about eco-tourism. Many people come to Costa Rica in particular to see and work with turtles. This brings a lot of money to the areas and helps to provide further funds for the conservation to continue. By using turtles as a flagship species, it can encourage people to recycle and to eat properly caught fish to help with their protection at the same time as helping to deal with larger issues.

Both teams this week got very behind their given animal and although we’d all ideally like to see both survive for a long time, the final vote went in favour of the Green Turtle. But do you agree?

Tell us what you think on Twitter by tweeting @FrontierGap @FrontierCBP!

By Jenny Collins, Communications Officer

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.


Communications Officer Blog: 22 Jan 2014

Everyone has settled in now, and a few people have even picked up their first jungle injuries – though  thankfully nothing serious, just a sore toe and heat rash here and there! This week some volunteers were lucky enough to help a couple of Olive Ridley hatchlings down to the sea. Every Saturday we go down to the hatchery to check on the nests and sometimes we are there when the eggs have hatched and the turtles are waiting to make their first important journey down to the sea. They are such small creatures that it always seems like a miracle that any make it at all as they get bashed around by the waves breaking on the sand and it often takes a few attempts for them to make right into the water.

I went on my first bird survey with ARO Anna and was amazed by her knowledge of bird calls! We heard a Great tinamon, a Chestnut-backed antbird, a Red-lored parrots, a Blue- black grosbeak, a Riverside wren, a Lesser greenlet, a Black striped wood creeper, a Rufons pihon and a Black throated trogan. The birds proved rather trickier to see but we did manage to spot a Wedge-billed woodcreeper and a Blue-capped manakin.

ARO Anna and volunteers Emily and Jordan came across an unusual sight on their way back from the beach on Saturday. A group of Capuchins were trying to kill an iguana who dropped his tail and escaped into the river!

The biggest talking point of the last week was our Conservation forum – it ignited everyone’s brains and got us all talking. The topic was ‘The reintroduction of wolves into Scotland’. After being extinct for many years after extensive loss of habitat and poaching, the idea to bring the wolf back has been suggested as a way of controlling the deer population.

Everyone on camp was put into two teams – the For and the Against – and set to find arguments to support their given side, regardless of their true opinions. ARO Jess and volunteer Becca outshone themselves as speakers both giving convincing arguments. The main against points raised focused on the possibility of diseases, and the threat to domestic animals and livestock. It was also mentioned that the move would be unpopular with the people of Scotland. The for countered this by bringing up the example of a successful reintroduction in Washington State in America. They also believed that it is only right to bring back a native species and allow them to return the landscape to its natural state. Here on camp, the majority voted against after the debate was over. But would you agree?

The end of the week brought with it our first goodbyes from the January volunteers; Alex left us on Sunday and will be missed by everyone on camp!

By Jenny Collins, Communications Officer

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.


Communications Officer Blog: 13 Jan 14

The first week on camp is always a period of adjustment, even if like me, you’ve already spent 3 months here last year. The dynamic changes depending on the group; each new arrival brings their own unique personality which changes the character of the camp. Some people struggle to get used to their hammocks, but I had the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long while on my first night back in mine. Most people find after they give it a chance they too find the hammocks comfy but the few who don’t migrate over to tents and swear by them instead.

The January new arrivals came with enthusiasm and, as soon as health and safety was passed, headed out into the forest on surveys. The first otter survey brought with it their first otter sighting – a rare event! Doubtful they’ll be so lucky a second time but everyone will be out with them with their fingers crossed regardless.

The first couple of meals for the newbies have set the bar high for expectations of the food. Unfortunately supplies may interfere with these hopes! But so far we’ve been treated to veggie meatballs with cheese, wraps, veggie burgers and guacamole. Will be interesting how far everyone’s imaginations can go in the coming weeks.

There has also been successes in the butterfly surveys with a brand new sighting (Chloroiptychia arnaca) and a welcome catch of the popular and photogenic morpho butterfly.

Aside from surveys everyone has been busy bonding through yoga sessions, Sudoku, family guy and origami. The first week draws to a close with a party at the local bar – Bijaguel, where over a few drinks the volunteers get to know each other further and get to mingle with the volunteers working for OSA.  

By Jenny Collins, Communications Officer

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.


Volunteer blog: Shoshana Stanton

While turtles seem to have a hard life and excavating a predated nest is grim, it is worth it for feeling of guiding the few surviving hatchlings into the sea.

Aside from turtles, conservation activities involve hiking through the incredible forest counting primates, birds or butterflies, depending which survey you’re signed up for. Neotropcial otter surveys are extra special because these creatures have rarely been studied before. Everything you record is a genuine contribution of knowledge to humanity. It’s extra special when you actually see the otters. Normally we count their scat, we get very excited about scat here.

Speaking of excitement, we also find plenty of ways to have fun on camp. Movie afternoons and night walks are regular occurrences, and I strongly recommend a visit to Ave Azul (what is that? Not telling…). And let’s face it, when you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere with the same group of people, the banter gets pretty good pretty quickly…

One of my new friends on camp argues that the reason turtles are so defenceless is because they have such slim chances of reproducing, thus evolve mega-slowly. Perhaps. But not so with us volunteers. I can tell you that if you come here, you will find yourself learning, adapting and evolving every day. And I don’t think you’ll ever look back.

By Shoshana Stanton, volunteer (pictured)

Find out more about Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation.

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