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Tree Cameras: The Eyes of the Osa

Author: Rachael Eplee

 

As the Osa Conservation Wildcat program has shown us time and time again, cameras are an extension of our eyes into the forest.  They sit there quietly, waiting to witness what wildlife happens to unfold before them.  Our cameras on the ground have allowed us to track animal populations throughout the Osa Peninsula, giving us new perspective on the tendencies and patterns of the animals with whom we share a home.

But are we missing something?  Look up!  As anyone who has been to a tropical rainforest knows, some of the most exciting wildlife extends far above the forest floor and into the dense and diverse canopy.  Birds, monkeys, and even some species such as porcupine, kinkajou, coati, and the allusive margay spend much of their lives out of sight, but certainly not out of mind of scientist everywhere.  In an effort to better study these incredible species, Osa Conservation is starting a Canopy Camera Trap Project in conjunction with DANTA; a nonprofit focused on education based conservation. As a long term friend of Osa Conservation and supporter of the camera trap programs, DANTA hopes to help Osa Conservation in extending our eyes upward to start producing baseline research in order to better understand populations of arboreal mammals.  The most active species in the canopy are, to no one’s surprise: monkeys, which are of particular interest to DANTA director and primatologist, Kimberly Dingess.  This project will seek to aid DANTA research as well as assist visiting students and organizations in better understanding all the action occurring above our heads.

But the scope of the project does not stop there!  As any nature lover knows, a quiet set of eyes in the rainforest can expose a wealth of information and has implications far beyond the fauna.  With a long term monitoring program, we will be able to utilize long term cameras to observe the flora of the Osa forest, allowing us to document shifts in phenology, or blooming and fructification, of the trees.  This new technology will provide new data with regards to climate change and the affect it has on the distribution of both arboreal and terrestrial mammals.

The videos were captured in our first trial run with a camera about 15 meters up in a tree on our Cerro Osa property.  The first video features a Capuchin monkey, one of the four species present on the Osa Peninsula. These particular monkey species are highly intelligent and social animals which tend to travel in troops of up to 40 individuals.  On a trip to the Osa you are very likely to see these little guys climbing, playing, or eating any number of tree fruits!  The second video features a kinkajou, a mostly arboreal mammal most closely related to coatis and raccoons.  Seldom seen by humans due to its nocturnal habits and the fact that it rarely touches the ground, this footage allows us to gain new perspective on the adorable nature of this curious species.  As our camera trap programs grow, so does the potential for new questions, answers, and most importantly, new ways to work towards conservation of the beautiful Osa Peninsula.  Stay tuned to see what comes of the canopy camera trap program!!