Entries in #species (7)


New  Discoveries

Jim slowly pops open a tiny tupperware box sitting on the table. All of us gathered around the table slowly lean in, ready for the much anticipated surprise he brought to share with us. Hidden amongst scrunched up tissue he picks out an insect. Dark brown in colour with two large front pincers. This is one of three found specimens of its species. This being the only one still living.

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Not Taking Things For Granted 

During my first few weeks in the Osa peninsula, Costa Rica, everything amazes: lush jungle, being woken up by howler monkeys, the overwhelming diversity of flora and fauna. You always have to pinch yourself to make sure you are not dreaming and there is no need for someone to remind you how unique this place is.

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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

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In Search Of The Elusive Ocelot

There’s so much more wildlife in Costa Rica than I could have ever imagined, from the monkeys to the frogs to the insects. But there was one type of species that I wanted to see more than any other, and this was any of the wildcats! In the Osa Peninsula there are 6 different wildcats; Oncilla, margay, ocelot, Jaguarundi, Puma and Jaguar. I was never too optimistic about seeing any of them, but as time went on I always thought maybe one day I may just stumble across one.

After seeing ocelot tracks on the trail just behind camp the optimism grew and grew and then one night whilst in the back of a truck on our way to the local bar I saw a flash of beautiful colours in the cars headlights run across the road. All I could do is shout at Kiefer who was in the back of the truck ‘THERES AN OCELOT!!’. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to turn round in time to see it. I had to control my breathing as I was freaking out a lot, almost to the point where I thought I may faint for the first time. It may have only been 2 seconds of visual contact as it scampered off but it was enough to give a childlike feeling of discovery again.

When some of the other volunteers and staff arrived back at camp the next day I couldn’t wait to tell them. No one could believe it and they were extremely jealous, especially the big boss Jenna.

A few days later some people came running into camp saying they had seen the ocelot again; we couldn’t believe it as it was the middle of the day. Kiefer was very distraught that he had once again missed it and started pacing around with a slight look of anger on his face. Then at dinner that night the people who saw the ocelot then revealed it was just a cruel joke to wind Kiefer up, a very harsh prank but one that would later come to bite them back!

A few days had past and then upon arriving back from a survey all I saw was Jenna, Kiefer and Nie with big grins and their hands up in the air. I knew they had seen something amazing I was just waiting for the words to come out their mouths, they then revealed they had seen the ocelot just walking through camp casually before trotting off into the jungle. Despite seeing the ocelot before I was very jealous as they had clearly had a much better view of it, in broad daylight as well.

Earlier that day I had seen tapir prints and faeces on the trail behind camp, so a bit later I went off by myself to see if I could find the tapir. After about 30 minutes of searching I hadn’t found him so I started to walk back towards camp when suddenly I looked up and just saw the ocelot about 5 metres away from me walking off into the jungle. I froze with disbelief before attempting to get my phone out to take a photo but it was too late. Once again I freaked out slightly and had to take 5 minutes to catch my breath and compose myself.

I started to walk back to camp when I bumped into Nie and Berglind, and with a massive smile on my face revealed that I had just seen the Ocelot up close and clear as day. Berglind was stunned and insisted we went back on the trail to look for it, which I was more than happy to do.

After walking for about 5 minutes I froze again and just pointed, Berglind and Nie both knew that I had spotted it and came rushing over. The Ocelot was about 10 metres away and was staring at us, after a 30 second staring contest that felt more like days, he started to walk off back into the jungle once more. We were all super elated and struggling to put words together of what just happened, Nie also managed to get a very good photo of the face!

To top it all off whilst the three of us walked back to camp we saw a Tayra plodding down the trail, another animal that is rarely seen, possibly the best 20 or so minutes of wildlife I have ever witnessed.

Getting back to camp people asked me how my tapir search had went in which I replied ‘no tapir but I saw something a lot better’ peoples faces started to drop when they realised what it had been and when I revealed it was an Ocelot they could not believe it, a few volunteers that had played the prank on Kiefer immediately went on the trail to look for it but had no luck.

Seeing all the different animals here is always going to be amazing no matter how big or small but to see such an elusive and magnificent animal like the Ocelot just sends shivers through your whole body that can’t compare to many other feelings.

With a lot of luck, optimism and hope maybe I will get to see the Jaguar one day!

By Joe Wilcox - Conservation volunteer

Photo Credit - Aneira Williams

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

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Carate Camp

I joined the project just as the camp moved from Piro where the project had been for six years to Carate, half an hour up the road, where we will be for the next two months. The move was inspired by a new challenge - to catalogue and monitor the overspill of animals from Corcovado National Park into the surrounding area to help local land owners get their land protected.

The authority that gives out protected statuses, Minai, needs help to research and catalogue all the animals that have spilled out of the park into the surrounding area before they can give these highly sought after statuses. These certificates will also help prevent further development on the land, helping to protect the environment and the animals that live in it, as well as bringing in eco tourists to help the local community raise money for a school and church.

The certificates given by Minia are very important but these alone are still not enough, most of the beaches along this stretch have been protected, however on my first turtle patrol we found around 30 turtle nests, only three of which were intact. Most have been raided by coatis and dogs but a high percentage had also been poached by humans. Although poaching and gold mining are shameful activity in Costa Rica these practices still continue as poverty is still quite high and the local communities are struggling to find alternative forms of income.

We spent the first week marking out trails on the GPS to put into google earth, marking out viewing spots for both primates and birds. Along these trails we’ve found tapir poo, puma or jaguar scat, sap winged bats, a tira, coatis, aguties, squirrel monkey, spider monkeys, capuchins and howlers along with a myriad of birds. We have also been monitoring the predatory levels on turtle nests to see if Coatis are a major problem and if so, why. The next few weeks and months will be very important for Frontier in Costa Rica but also for Minai and the local community as well as being very rewarding, I’ve definetely come at the best possible time to start my conservation career.

By Aneira Williams – Volunteer

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Swamp Walks 

There are a lot of amazing things to be seen in the jungle during the day with primates, birds and other animals. But at night it turns into a different place, with overwhelming noise from the amphibians and bright eyes from the caiman, and the best place to see all this is the swamp.

Going for a swamp walk at night is always exciting as you can never be sure what you're going to encounter. On my first swamp walk we saw several Cat eyed snakes slither across our path, we saw a caiman in the swamp only a few feet away from us and using our spotlight we could see the whole body perfectly.

We managed to see a red eyed tree frog, a well recognised frog in Costa Rica which is almost a national symbol. The strange thing was though that the red eyed tree frog had been mistaken by the gliding tree frog who was trying to mate with it. On another walk we encountered a Fer-de-lance snake, after watching him for a bit we quickly left as didn't want to see what they're capable of.

There were also plenty of juvenile frogs to be seen, frogs eggs on lots of the leaves and plenty of spiders and other insects everywhere you look. The best bit of the swamp walks is wading through the water to get up and close to all the different animals waiting to be discovered. It’s also the only time that you welcome the rain as you know you're likely to see a bundle more if it is raining.

By Joe - Wildlife Conservation Volunteer

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Sixteen Observations about life on the Osa Peninsula:

1.    Pelicans air-surf waves to help them glide further.

2.    Hermit crabs come out of their shell when you breathe on them.

3.    River otters like to display their faeces, but not their faces.

4.    Scorpions like to live in the beams.

5.    Scorpions also like to live under the deck.

6.    Army ants mostly target insects, but will also accept sandals (and the feet contained within).

7.    Olive Ridley Turtles can sprint up the beach like Olympic Athletes.

8.    Spider monkeys don’t like people standing beneath them.

9.    Spider monkeys have excellent aim.

10.    It is best not to stand beneath spider monkeys.

11.    Fireflies shine both green and orange here.

12.    Smokey Jungle Frogs scream like a human when threatened.

13.    Much like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Coatis forget where you are if you stop moving.

14.    Male anole lizards will display their (dewlap) neck-flap if you hold a mirror up to them.

15.    It is mandatory to wave when you see someone else on the road.

16.    There is more than one way to eat a coconut.


By George Shankar - Field Communications Officer

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