by Lauren Lipuma and Florencia Franzini
Osa Conservation has had a busy summer and fall this year. From renovations and land purchases to project expansions, the work never ceases to lose momentum here at OC! Here are a few things that have been going on at Osa Conservation this summer and fall:
The Agro-Ecology Farm at Osa Verde has had a huge facelift! OC is gearing up to launch our Sustainable Agriculture program, hoping to provide healthy, organic, locally -sourced food produced in harmony with a biodiversity conservation mission. The site of this new program is Osa Verde, a 500-acre property adjacent to Piro Research Center. Renovations of the property’s facilities have begun, including repainting and installation of a potable water system. Soil sample testing has also begun, and we are anxiously awaiting results!
At Lomas del Sierpe Wildlife Refuge, we recently finished gathering together all the pinewood and materials needed to start construction of a new center at the location, including a classroom, kitchen, and dining room for students and visitors. We have also begun preparing 15 hectares (37 acres) along the nearby Esquinas River for reforestation, using seedlings donated by the Institute of Energy and Brinkman & Associates Reforestation, Central America (BARCA).
From Piro to Cerro Osa, our new trail system has begun to take shape. New trail signs were designed and implemented in August, new trails have been built, and our existing trail system is undergoing major renovations. The “Turtles’ Trail” leading to the sea turtle hatchery has been completed, and the remaining trail upgrades are scheduled to be completed by December. Piro Biological Station is also receiving a facelift with upgrades to cabin and bathrooms: new paint, new windows and new decorations should add to the already wonderful experience at Osa. We have also begun the construction of new furniture for Piro and landscaping with new plants that will attract local birds.
Our Forest Restoration and Nursery program planted nearly 50,000 seedlings of 30 different native tree species in the Osa National Wildlife Refuge, along a 44-hectare site of recently-harvested teak and pochote plantations. Another 20 hectares are scheduled to be replanted in the next few months!
Osa’s endangered Yellow-Billed Cotingas have a new home! With the help of several partner organizations, OC has established thefirst Yellow-Billed Cotinga Sanctuary in the Osa Peninsula. Officially purchased in July, the sanctuary sits on 23 acres of land adjacent to the mangrove forests and estuaries of Rincón. We are currently working on designs for an observation platform and an educational trail, scheduled for completion by the end of the year! In addition, a film crew from Madison, WI will be conducting a pro-bono film shoot during a Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative-sponsored birding trip in January of 2014. The crew will produce a video highlighting the work of Osa Conservation in protecting the habitat of this critically endangered bird.
Education and Outreach is at an all time high for Osa Conservation! We are currently partnering with 15 schools and have managed to reach 700 students through our programs. Local students have helped reforest by planting over 600 trees, participated in a beach cleanup program from Cabo Matapalo to Carate Beach, and visited our “Rainforest Discovery Trail” around Piro Biological Station. This summer, we also started a new water stewardship program with help from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. Students can now monitor water samples around the Osa Peninsula by studying water quality and content through nutrient and phytoplankton assessment – essentially becoming stewards of their own water sources.
Sea Turtle Season is in full swing! We had an all time high of 78 sea turtle volunteers visit the Osa this quarter, performing valuable monitoring of nesting beaches between Piro and Pejeperro. Our sea turtle hatchery is now in full operation – 40 nests have hatched there so far, and 600 baby turtles have reached the sea. We have also had a rare visitor to our nesting beaches – a mother Hawksbill sea turtle has come to lay her eggs!
In the Osa National Wildlife Refuge, our camera trap network continues to be an important asset for monitoring populations of large cats and other mammals. The Refuge, consisting of Osa Conservation properties and the properties of several local ecolodges, has expanded to include Lapa Rios, El Ramanso and Bosque del Cabo lodges, covering an area larger than ever before. The network of sixteen camera traps throughout the Refuge have captured photos of numerous small mammals and pumas roaming freely throughout this large protected area.
Finally, our Wetlands Project has gotten off the ground! This program, in its first six months of implementation, aims to strengthen the institutional presence of MINAE in the Térraba-Sierpe National Wetlands and to develop sustainable economic opportunities for neighboring communities. So far, our project team has participated in five community events to facilitate communication with these local residents.