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Conservation and Environment in Costa Rica: Monthly Updates

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Conservation in Costa Rica - Monthly Update February 2010

Cave work

Although I am slightly biased to everything that happens in the park, I have to admit that February has probably been the most exciting month ever in the Barra Honda national park. We have had new sightings, new reports, restarted old projects, started new projects and really made huge progress with old projects!

The most exciting thing for everyone this month was the first visual sighting of an Ocelot (Wild Cat) -although nowhere near the size of a Jaguar or Puma, the Ocelot still carries the same colors as a Jaguar but is only slightly larger than a large house cat but is fiercely hunted for its fur and usually the first to leave an area that is disturbed by humans. This tells us all that the work we are doing here in the park is working as animals like these are not only living in the park, but living in areas close to the main camp as well!

The sighting was taken using the Sensor cameras which we place in the park each week, so obviously there was a huge amount of luck involved in getting this picture, but that just makes the event even more special! The Ocelot wasn't the only thing we saw on the cameras during February. We also saw Central American Coati, Deer, Iguanas, Opossum and Paca.

Ocelote

We have set up a new section on the Barra Honda Facebook page with a selection of each month's photos.

We also had several new species with the butterfly project, this project is another thing that has been running for some time now, so finding new things has been slower than it was during the first couple of months, however luck has been with us again and we managed to capture several new species in different areas of the park. We have been continually working to mount, organize and display all of the butterflies that we have captured as well as all the data collection that goes along with each of the investigation projects we have running.

The final investigation project that we have running at this time is the Bat collection project and again we have had some amazing results in the past month, capturing another 5 new species for this particular project, but more importantly capturing 1 new species of vampire bat for us and for the park!

So far in the two months we have been working with the project we have captured about 50 individuals in the 8 sessions that we have run the project, which is a very good number, unfortunately it hasn't all been happy, plain sailing, with a couple of nights failing to capture anything but insects! However, we are all very happy with all of the results gathered during the first two months of this year and are very confident and eager to continue throughout the year.

Social event

It hasn't all been investigations though, we have been working hard with many other project this month, one of my favorite projects is our cave restoration project, which we started last year but had to put on hold due to the rainy season. The project is a long term endeavor that will eventually have a fully built and marked trail inside the main tourist cave (Terciopelo Cave).

The trail is needed as at several points during the year the walk inside the cave can be slippery and tricky, meaning that a lot of people walk inside feeling as though they might slip at any time. Now we have built a cement pathway inside the cave we notice a huge difference in the way that people walk inside, even the guides themselves feel safer! I enjoy this project so much because it is something that we could never do anywhere else in the world. Building steps doesn't sound like a lot of fun but building steps inside a cave 17 meters underground is something that you could never do in Europe and so gives the project something unique and special about it!

We have also started a couple of new projects this month, one of the ideas we have had for some time is that we should create a small scale organic vegetable garden in the park, principally for the consumption of the volunteers, rangers and guides but also as a guide/example to locals that they could do something on their land on a small scale for limited cost and higher health benefit. At this time we only have the area cleared and we are starting to form the land, making it flatter, making drainage channels around the edge and placing posts to fence the area in, but we hope to have the area built and ready to see in a month or two ready for the wet season which is approaching each day!

Vampire bat

The other new project we have, which is another very long term project, is marking the limits of the park; this has been done a few times in the past, but with different coordinates, so we have to do the whole thing from the beginning! It's a simple process though, using the GPS coordinates we can create a line with the GPS device and we basically follow this and with the use of a compass we can ensure we are heading in the right direction. So far we have completed about 2km in 2 days of work but with about another 50km to do we know we have a long job ahead of us!

During all of this hard work we also managed to schedule an afternoon to relax by the pool in a local restaurant, have some nice food and generally a good time. Thanks to Manuel the owner of the bar for letting us organize our monthly social event with him. Thanks also to the volunteers and the staff at the park for their amazing hard work this month!

Finally this month I would like to talk about one of our longest running projects, the restoration of the park's community football field. Earlier in the year we installed an irrigation system on the field to help keep the freshly planted grass alive until the wet season and thanks to the occasional shower we have done a great job. Our current job is removing a ton of weeds that have come back again and preparing to plant more grass seed which in turn will keep the weeds from growing back. I remember the area 1 year ago when I first arrived and although it doesn't look it now the change is astounding! So I would personally like to thank every volunteer who has worked on this project and would like to assure you that it is used on regular basis by volunteers, rangers, tourists and locals! I hope to be back with you all next month with more amazing news from Barra Honda National Park, Costa Rica.

Richard Munday
Conservation Coordinator
Barra Honda National Park
February 2010

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