Entries in #monkeys (3)


My Adventure  Begins

Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates and Turtles was a dream come true. This project includes a variety of wildlife that is only found in Costa Rica. Wildlife back home in upstate NY is not nearly as diverse or plentiful. When I arrived after a long day of travelling and emotional goodbyes, I was met with warmth and smiles.

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My Stay At Camp  Osita

Back in January my friend Emma and I started on our Oceania and Latin America tour. Costa Rica was already a key country on our travel list due to the care and emphasis the country puts on its natural environment and animals. So, big cats, primates and turtle conservation in Costa Rica seemed perfect.

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What To Expect In Costa Rica

Having done the Central America trail before hand, I was a little in the dark as to what Frontier Costa Rica's work was all about. I thought therefore that this would be a good chance to explain things for anyone else in my position!

Despite its size, the OSA peninsula is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet, home to a whopping 4% of the worlds species. Most of these are endangered, and to make matters worse, endemic to the area - they cannot live anywhere else. Furthermore, many of these species are data deficient (one bird species hasn't had a paper published on it since 1954!).

Frontier's purpose in this area is to collect data that could potentially help protect these species and the local ecosystem. We study a huge variety of animals, grouped into birds, mammals, primates, turtles, reptiles and amphibians. It's a lot to keep track of but you learn quickly! We go out on surveys every morning very early (and sometimes night surveys which are incredible), so be ready to be hiking at 5 am! Each survey will go through a part of the jungle or beach in order to keep track of what animals can be seen or heard on that trail, helping Frontier understand the numbers and distribution of the target species.

Bird surveys for example, will be organised into three stop points, where volunteers will put their newly acquired bird calls knowledge to use, and attempt to identify the fifty bird species Frontier studies. I've had problems learning the bird calls (some sound so similar!) but there are some funny ways to remember them, one in particular we call the party bird since it sounds like a dubstep, while the macaw is quickly committed to memory  (screeching nails). Primate trails are slightly different, as you walk slowly through the jungle while staring into the trees and trying not to trip over a rogue root. They are equally fun however, and while I've never had this happen to me I've heard stories from other volunteers that they will throw poo if they feel aggressed!

My favourite trails however are the turtle ones, mostly because I saw a pacific green laying eggs up close, then accompanied her to the sea, which was incredible. A normal turtle survey will involve hiking the beaches in search of turtle tracks or nests, and seeing which nests have been predated (eaten by predators). Turtles don't like laying eggs with lots of light or disturbances, and they will always pick the same beaches, which is part of why they are becoming endangered. Many of their beaches are becoming tourist traps, and the light pollution and increased activity is scaring them away, not to mention poachers taking the eggs once their nests have been laid. Something I thought was really interesting, is that around only one in a thousand turtle eggs will survive; there are so many problems, from predators, to making it to the sea, that very few make it.

The OSA peninsula is one of two areas in Costa Rica that are protected reserves, where the wildlife can thrive - the other is situated around the other side of the mainland. The problem is that for many species, this stretch of land isn't enough. For example, a healthy jaguar population needs 1500 km2 to survive, whereas at the moment, they only have 500 km2 in the OSA peninsula. No one on camp has ever seen a jaguar, due in part to their dwindling numbers (and the fact that they don't like to be seen!). Another problem the wildlife here faces is codependency - ie a particular bird species spreads the seeds of a certain tree, and some primates need that tree to survive. If we lose the bird, the whole cycle is then potentially lost. Frontier's overarching aim would be to gather enough data on such difficulties, and present them to the government via an organisation called Minae, ideally linking the two reserves and creating enough land for these endangered species to thrive.

So there you have it, an abbreviated summary of what on earth Frontier are doing in Costa Rica! I hope it helps (and makes you want to come help out - seriously, the wildlife and location are stunning!).

By Meriel Clementson - Central American Ethical Trail Volunteer

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

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