Commitment to Conservation: Saving the Spider Monkeys

By: Kelly Haggerty

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.- Margaret Mead


Margaret Mead, a famous anthropologist who received a lot of criticism for her work,became a legacy. She experienced discouragement and doubt on her beliefs and points, but continued to do what she loved and felt a purpose in. Believe it or not, I feel the same way. As an Anthropology major and Geography minor with a concentration in conservation at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania; many people don’t believe what I study is scientific research or that it will get me a job in the near future. “You’re an anthropology major, what are you planning to do with that?”

Well, I am planning to contribute to the small group of thoughtful and committed citizens that are surely making a difference. Here, at Osa Conservation, I see this effort in progress. Osa Conservation’s mission is to conserve the land they own of the 2.5 percent of biodiversity we hold in this tiny spot of the world, in the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica. That is amazing. What some people do not realize is everything is connected and has a ripple effect on all of its surroundings. For example, the spider monkeys play a vital role in the health of the rainforest. They disperse 90-95 percent of their seeds that benefits themselves, the tree species, and other organisms feeding on that tree. I am mentioning their contributions because the research I am doing on the property of Osa Conservation a short- term study on the black-handed spider monkeys (Atelesgeoffroyi). My goal is to look at their feeding habits and spatial patterns according to food availability and patch size of the trees they are eating. This project will continuously be added to throughout the wet season and dry season for better understanding of their feeding ecology. Ultimately the results will help us (the author and co-authors) and Osa Conservation better understand how to conserve the population of black-handed spider monkeys in the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica.12307558_10204578348728670_1486803470915791713_o            12471803_10204814589074531_805403859499414746_o

I would not be here if it was not for DANTA: Association for Conservation of the Tropics. DANTA, a field school run by Dr. Kimberly Dingess, is a non-profit organization with a mission to educate students and locals on methods of conservation of the tropical rainforest. I took her course, Methods in Primate Behavior and Conservation in January of 2015 and we stayed at the Piro Biological field station. This experience ignited my passion to pursue this project and learn more on the primates on the land of Osa Conservation. DANTA is an amazing way to get a head start on field work experience and knowledge on such important issues.

In addition to the contributions I have felt I made during my 2 week stay, I learned so much from the staff at Osa Conservation. It is incredible to see each and everyone one of the employees come from such diverse backgrounds for a joint effort. They work together, play their role, and never forget the mission of Osa Conservation. It is fairly easy to say I have learned a decent amount from the staff since I have been here. For example, a sea turtle research assistant, Charles Wheeler, allowed me to join him one morning in patrol, release, and excavations of the sea turtle hatchery on Piro beach. He taught me so much about the work he does and how the program he works for has been able to conserve the population of 4 different species of sea turtles over the years. It was amazing to witness the effects just a few people can have on the conservation of sea turtles in the area.


Photos credited to: Maunuel Sanchez Mendoza


The Quest for Nests: Researching Sea Turtle Nesting Habits


Love has been in the air for our friendly sea turtles nesting along the beaches in the Osa Peninsula. Over the past few months, La Programa de Tortugas Marinas has been following the nesting habits of sea turtles on the Piro and Peje Perro beaches in hopes of finding out more about the number of turtles nesting on these shores. These beaches happen to be two of the most critical locations for nesting in the Osa, which makes this research extremely vital. Staff has been monitoring this project by walking along the beaches and counting the number of natural nests, nesting sites, and false nests! (A false nest, otherwise known as a false crawl, is a nest where a female turtle does not actually lay her eggs).

During the months of October, November, and December, Osa Conservation’s sea turtle conservation program spent between 75 and 105 hours sampling the nesting locations at the Piro and Peje Beaches. On Piro Beach, there were a total number of 173 nests found. The nests were made by the two most common species of sea turtle in the Osa, the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). On Peje Perro Beach, approximately 380 nests were found from our two turtle species. An interesting fact from the results of the sampling is, of the 553 nests found across the two beaches, 140 of the nests happened to be false nests!

Alongside the nest research occurring in the Osa, we also welcomed visitors of local hotels in Costa Rica to help us release over 7,000 turtles from October to December!


Photo courtesy of: Manuel Sanchez Mendoza

Sea Turtles, Volunteers and Visitors

Early Arrival – a Sea Turtle Surprise

Sea Turtles Galore!

We just wrapped up the peak sea turtle season here in Osa and are proud to announce that this year we released over 20,000 baby sea turtles! The hatchlings were from nests relocated to our hatchery because they were vulnerable to predation or to the whims of the river that runs along and often through the beach OC monitors. Since these nests were likely to have been lost altogether, our hard working volunteers and staff have given 20,000 more sea turtles a chance to make it in this world. A huge thanks to everyone who visited and lent a hand this year on the Osa Conservation Sea Turtle Conservation Program. 
In this weeks blog, we hear from a long-term research assistant about his surprise discovery one morning at the sea turtle hatchery. 

Written by: Charles Wheeler


In the early hours of the 2nd November 2015 a clutch of 82 Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) eggs were laid by a female on Piro Beach. This would be the first Green turtle nest to be relocated to the hatchery this year. The overwhelming anticipation to witness the first green turtle hatchlings was endured for 63 days until the joyful day arrived on the 4th January 2016.

My name is Charles Wheeler and I am one of the research assistants for the Sea Turtle Programme at Osa Conservation. I was scheduled for the morning patrol on this day and was expecting a normal routine patrol on the beach with the possibility to release some Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) hatchlings, the most abundant species of turtle eggs within the hatchery. After patrolling the beach and recording three new Green turtle nests, I arrived at the hatchery. I open the door to find some escaped hatchlings crawling around, at first I noticed something different about the hatchlings they were larger and had white bellies. After a few seconds of confusion I realised these were in fact the green turtles and they had hatched seven days early. Unable to control my excitement like a small child on Christmas morning, I hurried around the hatchery collecting all the hatchlings and placing them into buckets. There were a total of 50 Green turtles as well as 70 Olive Ridley hatchlings that had emerged over night. turt2Knowing that this was a rare opportunity to release fifty green babies I couldn’t just stay and liberate them myself. So I left the turtles safely secured inside the hatchery and ran from the beach back to the station 1.6km away to tell everyone else the great news! Being able to watch the liberation of these two endangered species gives immense job satisfaction and I am proud to be a part of this conservation programme protecting these international species.

You may have seen Charles on our Facebook page recently when we shared a selfie he couldn’t resist snapping after coming across a rebellious sea turtles that decided to nest during the day, breaking all the rules. If not, check it out at this link and like our page to follow us.

Charles and Green Sea Turtle selfie

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