by Juan Carlos Cruz Díaz, Science Manager, and Brigid Prouse, Science Program Assistant
Environmental education is a crucial element for promoting and teaching the importance of conservation to communities and individuals. By having a solid environmental education and outreach program, we can promote long term appreciation, awareness and respect for our environment. For this reason, a few months ago, as part of the Science Program at Osa Conservation, we started delivering a series of talks to locals, schools and tourists in The Osa National Wildlife Refuge and its surroundings.
Several partner ecolodges have hosted these talks, including El Ramanso, Bosque del Cabo, and Lapa Ríos. Bosque del Cabo, El Remanso and Osa Conservation properties form the Osa National Wildlife Refuge, an area that covers around 2,500 hectares (6,178 acres) of mature and secondary forest in the peninsula.
The presentations range from giving an overview of the biological characteristics of the Osa Peninsula, (richness of habitat, species and mosaic of landscapes) to the abundance and distribution of the species of terrestrial mammals from our current surveys in the ONWR.
Our monitoring program is based on photographs from camera trap stations located in the ONWR, enabling us to determine the richness, density, distribution and behavior of local wildcats and their prey.
Over 150 tourists have learned about our research and the characteristics of the Osa peninsula since we started our talks over two months ago. Our audiences really enjoy the presentations and are enthusiastic about the research we are conducting. As an important part of educating tourists on how they can help, these talks give us a chance to gain feedback and spread the word about our research and Osa Conservation as an organization.
Additionally, we have started to establish a network of camera traps in the surroundings of Corcovado National Park, one of the most important places for wildcat conservation in the Peninsula. These traps are an essential for monitoring the movement of wildcats outside the park but also for determining the best candidate areas for biological corridors, which would connect the animal populations of the park to those on the outside. This initiative intends to manage the camera traps located in different properties in the buffer zone of Corcovado National Park that present high importance for conservation. By sharing this information with all the network members, we will achieve a better appreciation of the conservation status of these species in the peninsula and have a large scale view of the situation.
Ecolodges like our hosts were the first ones to be included in the initiative since they have been actively involved in conservation for a long time. However, some other lodges, private owners and reserves are eager to contribute and join this monitoring program as well.
By having research accompanied by environmental education and outreach, we are able to deliver a strong message on the importance of conservation to people not only from the scientific community but also the public, which promotes awareness and appreciation for our natural world.