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Conservation and Environment in Costa Rica: Monthly Updates

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Conservation in Costa Rica - Monthly Update February/March 2011

Fire Break

February has been so busy that by the time I sat down to write to you all I realised it was the middle of March! So we have combined the two months to give you a full information packed update this time round!

We have quite a few new activities going on around the park. We began February by commencing a weekly night walk around the park. The main aim of these walks is to give volunteers a new experience of the park, as an area of the park viewed by day is completely different at night. The forest comes alive with new sounds and because it’s harder to get distracted by long distant views it’s easy to begin to see the smaller things that are right in front of you! The tiny ants climbing all over branches next to you, hunting crickets and frogs and lizards that blend in perfectly unless you’re out looking for them.

So far we have done a walk each night of the week and have yet to come back without seeing something...frogs, lizards, snakes, opossums, coyote and even deer! Unfortunately night time photography is pretty tricky so no one has managed to get some decent night time shots of these animals but the most important thing is that we have experienced these amazing sights. Obviously all this information is also used in our general observation records which we use in conjunction with our other projects to determine which areas of the park are more active and why and how we can help protect them more.

Ocelot

During these months of the year there is a lot of work being done to help protect the park and surrounding areas from forest fires. The generally accepted way of clearing farm land is slash and burn and unfortunately these fires can spread from one piece of land to another and sometimes into the park itself. The way we can help to prevent this from happening is by clearing fire breaks and trails in and around the park. These trails and breaks are years old in some places and basically only require a quick clean to get rid of leaves and dry grass which are the main fuel for fires in this part of the country. The fire cannot spread from one side of the break to the other so it should stay contained and die out, hence not continuing to destroy the park or other areas of the country.

Roguesa tumida

Continuing with our investigation and nature section of the update, we have also been discovering new species this month! We have another new species of bat in the park ££££££££££££, which has never been registered in the area before and has so far only been captured once in the course of our 1 year project.

We have also found 2 new species of butterfly in the area as well...one that is the most amazing colour of blue that it doesn’t look real and another that is very similar to dead leaf on the outside but looks like the “Pink Pura Vida” (one of Costa Rica’s most famous butterflies). These have yet to be formally identified but we are 100% sure that we don’t have them already and we only have to look through our ID books to help us find the right species!

Our camera project has continued to bring in good results as well, as I’ve told you in the past we have a young female ocelot in the park but we have now identified a 2nd ocelot. They both look completely different, one with almost completely black legs and the other with yellow legs. This isn’t something uncommon with ocelots but it does help us to identify individuals and work out each range and territory within the park.

Meicel's new cooker

Finally on the investigation/nature side of things we have finally arranged our bird observation activity for the start of April and even set the dates when we are going to run the project. There are two different activities planned, One which is point to point observations, which involves going to certain points around the park, water holes, fruiting trees and mud baths where birds come to feed and drink early in the morning. This activity will run from about 5am-8am in the morning before it gets too hot. When the temperature passes about 30C most wildlife begins to slow down and look for cooler spots around the park.

The second part of the project is going out with the mist nets and capturing species for close identification and photography. These individuals are measured and weighed and photographed in high detail so we can use the data to work out breeding habits, feeding habits and general health of the bird population and with the photos we can use them to create a field guide of the park. We already have something similar done for the Bats and we are working on mammals and soon birds!

Moncho

It hasn’t all been investigation and discovery this month. We have been working very hard in improving the installations of the park so everyone is more comfortable. We spent a whole day pulling Meicel’s kitchen apart, removing everything and placing new shelves and re-varnishing all of the wood whilst also adding a new electrical system for her new cooker! We have had the new cooker for about a month now and I think we have all put on a few extra pounds from the cake we have been eating every few days! Needless to say these small changes have made a huge difference to the appearance of the kitchen and has made Meicel’s life a lot easier! Plus the food is more exciting!

We are close to finishing off the new volunteer bedroom which is looking amazing! We have spent a lot of time and energy in making this a very comfortable and bright room. Its design is very similar to the old ones but with small changes to create more space and make it easier to clean and maintain. The floor is darker colour, the bathroom is organised better so there is more space and it’s easier to clean. We only need to paint and varnish the walls and wood which won’t take a long time and we should be ready to let volunteers in there in a few weeks time!

We also have a new member of staff with us here in the park, Jose Ramon is a local builder who will be with us for the next few months helping us to improve the installations we have here even more!

Of course this is only a small taste of all the work we have been doing this month. We have many other activities running day to day and many funny and exciting things happen all the time!

Richard Munday
Conservation Coordinator
Barra Honda National Park
March 2011

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