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Conservation and Environment in Costa Rica: Monthly Updates

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Conservation in Costa Rica - Monthly Update February 2012

Forest fire

As each month passes we are gradually increasing the rhythm of the Macaw project so that eventually, when we reach April/May we are there 24 hours a day 7 days a week. This month we have been visiting twice a week at times and have even finished coordinating for night time visits as well.

The main times that we need to be watchful for poachers is during the night, so we are hoping that our presence will be noticed from now on and will persuade people not to bother the nests this year! We have not even seen other people around the area so far this year, but we are fairly confident that farm hands, the people living at the entrance to the farm and the farmer himself will talk about the group of volunteers who are coming into the farm each week to look after the nest which will be a good deterrent.

It hasn't all been plain sailing this month though, we are fairly sure that nest 2 has eggs now but nest 1 is still behaving a little strangely. On a couple of occasions this month we have not even seen the birds until 5pm, when they flew back from what looks like the Tempisque river area. This is a strong indication that there is nothing to protect or look after in the nests and on another day we even saw a group of wasps trying to make a nest inside the macaw nest! Luckily we saw the Macaws return and clean the nest out quickly before the end of the day so we are fairly sure that they will lay soon!

Hopefully in the next couple of days/week we will start to work at night on the project as well and this will give us a more complete picture of what is going on and when and where the macaws are flying to during the day. This will start to give us much needed practice/training on running the project for 24 hours a day.

The dry season is one of the hardest times for wildlife in Guanacaste, with the harsh dry weather, the strong winds and the general lack of humidity, it's hard for a lot of wildlife to survive and reproduce during such a hard time. The maximum temperatures we get during this of the year can reach the mid-high 30's in the shade and on some days has reached low 40's!

One of the hardest things about this time of the year is the forest fire risk we have in the area. This February there have been 4 forest fires. Guanacaste is one of the areas that is most affected by forest fires in Costa Rica due to the long period of dry weather, the high winds and customs of the local farmers in burning the land they are going to use for farming. This practice is something that has been done for many years.

Scarlet Macaw in tree

It is very difficult to tackle these fires as well. The fire fighters have to use different tactics to stop fires in such hard terrain, the use of fire breaks and setting controlled fires are the main tactics of the area, trying to get in front of the fire and taking the fuel away from it are the most effective things we can do here and most of the time this is very good at stopping the fire from spreading too much. Of course, we leave the actual fire fighting to the experienced staff and the volunteers are not put in any danger.

We have also been working on a new butterfly project for the next few months thanks to Marsha Jacobs. She has come to us to do an extension of the Butterfly project for her University course. The project has been designed to see if we can complete or get close to completing the species list here in Barra Honda. So far we have around 60 species identified and we are expecting to find another 20-25 species in the area due to what has been found in other areas.

Walking to the Macaw site

There could be many reasons why we have not found all of the species yet, the height at which they fly, the food that they eat, the locations/type of forest the like, the season they are most abundant and luck as well! With the extension of the butterfly project we are now running we are now using different types of bait to see if we can capture some of the species we are missing.

Until now we have used banana, faeces, rotten fish and mud which have all given us different results but we cannot make too many conclusions from these results yet because of the short time we have been collecting the new data.

Richard Munday
Conservation Coordinator
Barra Honda National Park
February 2012

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