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Spider Monkeys: Architects of the Rainforest

Video Blog by Dr. Andrew Whitworth, Director of Ecological Restoration and Biodiversity Conservation

Osa Conservation has recently started a new research project to investigate the role of the endangered spider monkeys in dispersing seeds and restoring tropical forests in the Osa.  In this video blog below, Andy and his group of researchers are searching out the nightime sleeping trees of the spider monkeys and shows us some of their exciting “latrine site” discoveries. Check out the video below to learn more about this new project:

 

 

Stay tuned for more information about this project in future blog posts by research student Danielle Connor and others.

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More elusive than a jaguar…

Blog post by Eleanor Flatt, Restoration and Biodiversity Field Assistant 

Collecting 60 camera traps is no easy task, especially when 52 of them are off-trail in the dense tropical rainforest and getting to them involved river crossings and scrambling up steep muddy ridges. These camera traps were part of a study where we combined forces with PhD student Juan Sebastian Vargas (University of Toronto). This work will continue and become part of the growing Camera Trap Network made up of conservation organizations, ecolodges, researchers and land owners that all share an interest and passion for conserving wild cats. This collaboration will help achieve long-term monitoring and an understanding of wild cat presence, movement and behaviour here on the biodiverse Osa Peninsula, including Piedras Blancas and Corcovado National Park.

You will all have heard of jaguars, pumas and ocelots. All species of wild cat that are normally picked up passing by camera traps on trails here in the Osa Peninsula and you may even have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of one. We were fortunate to catch these species on our camera traps, along with many videos of a range of different interesting species such as agouti, coati, tamandua, opossum, paca, great curassow, green iguana, grison, tayra, tapir, peccary and armadillo! ( Images below show an agouti and peccary captured by the cameras)

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But there is one illusive wild cat where sightings are incredibly rare or near impossible: the jaguarundi. We could not believe our eyes when we stumbled across footage from one of our cameras of the mysterious jaguarundi. The challenging work of setting up cameras off-trail had paid off! The jaguarundi was not so mysterious anymore as this awesome footage gave us a spectacular insight into its behavior as we watched it mark and scent its territory. Although the jaguarundi is thought to be an elusive wild cat, we were very pleased to find out it is not camera shy!

 

Video of a jaguarundi captured by the camera trap

To find more about the mysterious Jaguarundi, visit https://news.mongabay.com/2016/06/mystery-cat-requires-more-conservation-and-research/

 

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The Circle of Life: Jacobin Chicks

Blog post written by Marina Garrido, Sea Turtle Research Field Assistant

Several months ago, while returning to the station after spending a long morning working to build a new hatchery, some volunteers from the University of Costa Rica and I spotted the nest of a white-necked jacobin (Florisuga mellivora) close to the trail. We were very lucky to see the mother incubating her eggs in a nest made of soft vegetation and cobwebs. This delicate nest was on the surface of a large leaf covered and protected by other leaves.

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Picture 1: Female of white-necked jacobin incubating her eggs in the middle of the wild jungle.

I was fascinated by the discovery, so almost every day after patrolling Piro beach, I would go to check on the nest.

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Picture 2 and 3: Two hungry white-necked Jacobin babies waiting for their mother to come back with some food.

The white-necked jacobin not only feeds on nectar, but on flying insects as well, catching them one by one in shorts flights. The plumage of the male is of beautiful bright colours, which he displays during the breeding season by dancing around the female to show off his attractiveness.

screen-shot-2017-09-05-at-4-38-28-pmPicture 4. The two babies ARS growing up strong and healthy

The chicks grew up quite fast, as in just a few weeks they were ready to leave the nest and find their own adventures. One of them left first while the other stayed in the nest for four more days. It is always difficult to leave our comfortable home and make the big jump, however, as it is said: those who do not jump will never fly.

screen-shot-2017-09-05-at-4-47-10-pmPicture 5. The last one to leave the nest, too comfortable at his home.

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The Osa Camera Trap Network

Blog post written by Juan Carlos Cruz, Feline Program Coordinator

Osa Conservation is excited to have worked with our partners to host the very first workshop for the Osa Camera Trap Network!

 

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Photo of Osa Camera Trap Network Workshop

 

This Network gathers together those in the Osa interested in doing research on wildcat conservation – including partners from communities, private companies, research institutions and conservationist organizations- to help inform conservation decision-making and provide a baseline of wildcat data for generations to come.

Wildcats are keystone species, which are crucial for the balance and full function of tropical ecosystems. As the top predators in our ecosystems, they are highest on the trophic chain. This means that they have no natural predators and play a significant role controlling all the subsequent levels on the food web – especially ungulates and other herbivores.

 

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Camera trap photo of a puma

 

Wildcats are also known as “indicator species” and help to assess the health of their ecosystems. Since these species are highly territorial and need large areas to fulfill their ecological needs, they are sensitive to fragmentation and respond to decreases in population of their natural prey (such as loss due to hunting pressures).

 

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Camera trap photo of a jaguar

 

Thus, the presence of wildcats, such as jaguars and pumas, is a sign of good ecosystem health. For this reason, monitoring population of wildcats is an effective and precise approach for monitoring the quality of tropical ecosystems.

Due to the urgent need to understand the conservation status of our focal species and ecosystems, Osa Conservation, in collaboration with several stakeholders in the Osa, started the “Osa Camera Trap Network” in 2013.  Each member of the Network provides their own camera traps and expertise of their site, while Osa Conservation’s Wildcat Program helps to provide the technical support in the placement of cameras and processing of data collected. At this time, the Network is composed of more than 20 members in the Peninsula, including Corcovado and Piedras Blancas National Parks, the Golfo Dulce Forest Reserve and Private Reserves. Additionally, more members are expected to join the initiative – producing one of, if not the largest camera trap systems in Central America!

As part of the workshop, this Network identified several of the key priorities for this upcoming year, including:

  • Estimating the current density of Jaguar in the Osa Peninsula.
  • Estimating abundance of terrestrial mammals among the different protected areas in the Osa Peninsula.
  • Identifying anthropogenic and environmental factors affecting the distribution and abundance of terrestrial mammals in the Osa Peninsula.
  • Evaluating the biological corridors in the Osa Peninsula.

Working together, we will be able to take on this ambitious and exciting work.  We see this workshop as an important stepping stone to mark the beginning of this essential collaboration to help conserve these amazing species and their ecosystems.

 

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Photo of Osa Camera Trap Network Workshop

 

We look forward to continuing to work together with the following current members of the Osa Camera Trap Network (and others who might wish to join):

  • Lapa Ríos Eco Lodge
  • Saladero Eco Lodge
  • Nicuesa Eco Lodge
  • Playa Cativo Lodge
  • La Leona Eco Lodge
  • Danta Lodge
  • Esquinas Eco Lodge
  • Asociación de Desarrollo integral Carate-Corcovado
  • Estación Tropical La Gamba (Universidad de Viena)
  • Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica
  • Beatriz López (estudiante Universidad de Florida)
  • Juan Vargas (estudiante Universidad de Toronto)
  • Investigadora Leslie Hay
  • Hacienda Rio Oro
  • Empresa Propietaria de la Red (EPR)
  • MINAE (ACOSA) – SINAC
  • FONAFIFO
  • Comunidad Rancho Quemado
  • Comunidad Los Planes
  • Comunidad Alto Laguna
  • Comunidad Rio Tigre