Celebrating Biodiversity!

Blogpost written by Eleanor Flatt, Biodiversity Research Field Assistant


In the Osa, “biodiversity” is an  understatement…

In the human world, we select people to represent our countries, our towns, our villages, our communities; it is similar in the animal kingdom. A flagship species is an ambassador for a specific habitat and normally conservation of that species or the area they inhabit has benefits for other species. Here in the Osa Peninsula, we are home to a staggering 2.5% of the planets biodiversity, living on a mere 0.00000085% of the earth’s total surface area. Now that’s impressive! This biodiversity includes many iconic, endemic, and endangered species, which are ecologically important to this region. Here are 7 of the most interesting and exciting examples you might find during your visit to the Osa.


Yellow-bellied sea snake (Pelamis platurus)

Photo by www.golfodulce.org/pelamis-en.html

Photo by www.golfodulce.org/pelamis-en.html

This beautiful yellow-bellied sea snake can be found in the temperate waters of the Golfo Dulce. Its physiological adaptations allows this species to become boat-like, with a tapered belly similar to the keel of a boat providing stability in water, along with a flattened and broadened tail, which performs like a paddle for swimming…this is the Michael Phelps of the snake world!



Yellow-Billed Cotinga (Carpodectes antoniae)

Photo by Glen Bartley

Photo by Glen Bartley

The Yellow-billed cotinga is an endangered bird whose small population occupies only a tiny area. There are estimated to be 250-999 individuals, and only 150-700 of them are mature. They occur in mangroves, lowland forest, scrub, and occasionally in isolated trees in nearby clearings. After completing a radio-tracking study to understand their habitat uses for breeding and feeding, Osa Conservation is now focusing on protecting this land through the creation of a reserve.



Mangrove Humming bird (Amazilia boucardi)

Photo by Nick Hawkins

Photo by Nick Hawkins

Mangrove hummingbirds are another vital species in the mangrove habitat. They feed mainly on the flowers of the tea mangrove and are the only birds that have adapted to collect nectar with a specialized tongue. Their diet of carbohydrate-rich sugar nectar is necessary to support the hummingbird’s significant energy demands, as their wings beat 200 times per second. They will feed on between 1,000 and 2,000 flowers each day, allowing the tea-mangrove flowers to maintain high pollination rates. We are in the midst of starting a new project to protect the mangrove habitats here in the Osa.



The White Lipped Peccaries (Tayassu pecari)


Populations of White-lipped peccaries are decreasing due to hunting and habitat degradation and fragmentation. Consequently, this species is now listed as vulnerable. Records indicate that they can form groups of as few as 5 to as many as 200 individuals. In conjunction with the wildcat program, Osa Conservation will be radio-collaring and  monitoring the  peccary population, as they are essential prey for large cat populations.



Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Manuel Sanchez

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Green turtles, listed as endangered by the ICUN, are one of the many sea turtle species that come to nest here. It is hypothesised that the hatchlings leave the nesting beach and begin an oceanic phase by floating passively in major current systems, which serve as developmental grounds, after several years. They then proceed to seagrass and algae-rich areas where they forage until maturity. In the Osa, we have the Golfo Dulce, which is rich in these foods, and we monitor Playa Peje Perro, which is considered an important beach because  of its high population of nesting female green sea turtles.



The Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi)

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Spider monkeys are energetic and agile movers found high in the canopy. Recorded as endangered on the IUCN Red list due to hunting, pet trafficking and habitat fragmentation, spider monkeys are in dire need of protection. Osa Conservation works hard to protect their areas of habitat, including important corridor routes surrounding national parks, and restore other aspects of their habitat. Spider monkeys are typically found in groups of 20-30 individuals, but often split up during the day to forage. In the evening, they all return to a specific “sleeping tree” to be together as a big family.



Golfo Dulce Poison Dart Frog (Phyllobates vittatus)

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

The Golfo Dulce poison dart frog is yet another species affected by habitat fragmentation and degradation, both of which have caused it to become endangered. As an endemic species here in the Osa (meaning it is only found in this region), this species is all the more special! Females deposit eggs on leaves above the ground, then the males carry the hatched larvae to small pools where they complete their development – a true team effort.


These are just a few of the many wonderful and magnificent species you can find here in the Osa Peninsula that we are working to conserve by protecting and restoring their habitats.  These are just a few of the amazing species we can appreciate as we celebrate World Biodiversity Day!









Uncategorized, Volunteers and Visitors

Cornell to Costa Rica

A blog by: Cody Stockert

Taking the opportunity to study for a block in Costa Rica is the best decision I have made in my four years at Cornell College.

This beach is located on the Osa peninsula of Costa Rica. My classmates and I accessed it using Osa conservation’s trails.


Why did I go to Costa Rica for class?

Cornell College is unique because we have a block plan schedule, which means we take one course at a time. Right now I am taking Biology 485 which at Cornell is the biology’s department’s senior research block. We do not have to leave the United States to fulfill this requirement, but I paid for the course by dedicating a portion of the income from my summer job. I think you would be a fool to stay on campus when you can have other choices. So while I am enjoying almost a full month in Costa Rica, I am not missing any class, just softball workouts.

My research project is looking at the relationship between the number of fungi and the state of decay of fallen tropical trees. You might think looking at dead trees on the forest floor would be really boring, but it has allowed us to go to the edge of the forest and see many things that we wouldn’t by just hiking a trail. For instance, today as Laurel and I were approaching a tree fall, Kaci gasped and when we looked up we saw a wild cat looking back at us! It was pretty incredible. We stood on the trail astonished it didn’t run away from us, but a couple minutes later saw a little spotted kitten trembling on the log.


The “wild cat” is known as an Ocelot. Seeing one in the wild is rare; their populations have been depleted because of human demand for their spotted coats. Ocelots are nocturnal, so we probably only saw it during the day because it had a kitten.


Sea Turtles

My personal favorite thing we have done on this trip is release baby sea turtles. Osa conservation has committed to restoring sea turtle populations by digging up their nests and moving them to their hatchery. The hatchery protects the sea turtle’s eggs from predation and habitat destruction. When hatched, the hatchlings are relocated to the beach and allowed to walk to the ocean. The female sea turtles, will return to their home beach in about 15-20 years to lay their nests. The largest nest we found was 54 cm deep and 31 cm across, with 111 eggs in it. I was amazed by the size of the nests created by animals that are typically half a meter in size!

Snake Encounter

On our first day in the field we were collecting tree fall data. I was climbing across a down tree with the measuring tape to get the height. The log was very decayed so as I was walking to the far end away from my class, the log collapsed and my foot went straight through the log. At the same time a brown coiled snake popped its head out of the log. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever moved faster. I jumped off the log cursing, heart beating, and shouting “SNAKE!” Professor McCollum then went to check it out, and informed me the snake was a fer de lance, also known as a tericopelo in Costa Rica. Fer de lance’s are a species of viper and also the most venomous snakes in Costa Rica. Once bitten, their venom solidifies your blood. Fortunately, I saw it before it saw me.

Small things Matter too!

Studying fungi has given me the chance to see how unique the rain forest is and to take a close look at some of the forest’s smaller organisms.

screenshot-35 screenshot-39screenshot-38











For Osa it is a big pleasure to hear back from all the experiences our visitors have! A big thank you to Cody for sharing his own.



The Great Hummingbird War of outside our cabin

Written by Jeremy Novak (Cornell University Student)

In all honesty The Great Hummingbird War is a tad misleading for three very important reasons: 1) it is really more of a series of fights; 2) it wasn’t that great, more or less as entertaining as the morning news; and 3) the most recent fight had nothing to do with a hummingbird, but rather a moth. The Great Hummingbird War does have one big thing going for it, it sounds a lot more exciting than The Just as Entertaining as the Morning News Series of Fights That Were Only Partially Fought Between Hummingbirds of outside our cabin. It also rolls of the tongue just a little bit better.


The best place to start when talking about any war is the beginning: Many moons ago, long before I arrived at the Osa peninsula, someone planted two clumps of Rabo de Zorros (Stachytarpheta cayennensis) outside the cabin we are staying in. The only way to describe this battlefield is… lovely, as the two plants are wonderful and provide a nice purple contrast to the landscape. They also serve as a food source for the local hummingbirds, and here is where the conflict begins because hummingbirds are by nature are territorial. And Hummingbirds that feed off of these two plants are very territorial, thus every morning when we woke up for breakfast we would witness a spectacle that can only be described, with complete honesty, as an overly aggressive dance with juice breaks. When one hummingbird spotted another hummingbird in its territory it would fly aggressively towards this new rival. Then the rival would zip away to find a new spot just out of view of the first hummingbird and enjoy the nectar from the flowers. But our fierce battle is not over as this “juice break” is often short lived, when the hummingbirds encounter each other again they repeat this dance darting around the plant flying quickly and gracefully between flowers and stems in their rivalry over this one plant. But we must not forget the second Rabo de Zorro across the path from the first, for it is host to the same type combat each morning, featuring smaller but no less persistent and territorial hummingbirds. All wars must at some point come to an end, and the larger hummingbirds do so in a spectacular fashion. When their dance comes to an end both rivals fly straight up above the roof of our cabin where the sunlight makes this spectacle almost impossible to see, what happens up there I can only imagine, because when they are done, both hummingbirds return to the Rabo de Zorro then one of them leaves.

Now if this were a children’s story and not an overly dramatic rendition of one person’s morning observations, we’d have to end the story with “…one of them leaves never to be seen again” but it’s not because I’m pretty sure that the same hummingbird comes back to try again the next day.

As far as the issue of the moth is concerned one would think being able to tell the difference a hummingbird and a moth would be easy, but it is surprisingly hard when they are about the same size and both hovering about looking for nectar.  Our first morning here my professor, Andy, and I were watching the hummingbirds darting around the flowers when I saw a hummingbird smaller than size of your thumb, and pointed it out to Andy. He saw only a glimpse of it and told me that it was too small to be a hummingbird and that it must have been a moth, thus a week long argument began. Each morning that first week we would stand out by the Rabo de Zorro watching for the bird/moth to return. Latter during this week Manuel returned to the station and we got him to weigh in on our argument. He confirmed that some very tiny hummingbirds do visit the Osa on their migrations. A quick internet search reveals the same thing but where’s the fun in that? With new resolution that we could have seen a hummingbird that small, we continued our search. That is until the fateful day, when Andy managed to get a blurry, but convincing photo (below) of our little hummingbird, or should I say moth. Andy had been correct that the hummingbird we had seen the first day on the Osa peninsula was a moth.


Thus ends The Great Hummingbird War of outside our cabin, while the daily conflict of the local hummingbirds is not going to end anytime soon, we can rest easy knowing that the biggest conflict in this long great war has been put to rest.

Thank you Jeremy for sharing your experience !




Feeling Froggy- When a professor and his favorite amphibians meet

This blog and all photos were provided by:

Steve Ressel|Professor at College of the Atlantic

This past August, I had the good fortune to visit Piro Biological Station for a few days. Piro was one stop on a seven-day scouting trip with another colleague where we explored different areas in the Osa for a future tropical ecology course. My days at Piro BioStation were few in number and mostly filled with logistical considerations associated with bringing students down to the Osa. However, I still left overwhelmed by the amount of biodiversity I saw during my brief, busy stay. I did have one thing in my favor, it was the rainy season and amphibians are my thing; the frogs did not disappoint.


TadpolesMy last day and night at the field station stands out in particular, because of the torrential rain the night before made all of the surrounding forest dripping wet for the next 24 hours . As the rain poured down, Manuel started thinking that it may be enough to prompt another round of explosive breeding in Agalynchis spurrelli (The Gliding Tree Frog) and he suggested that we head out early in the morning to see if that indeed was the case. It wasn’t, but I was blown away by the number of egg masses clinging to vegetation from previous mating bouts. Upon close inspection, I saw that many of the eggs contained well developed, squirming tadpoles.


TreeI am an avid photographer of nature and in the aftermath of the previous night’s storm, I was mesmerized all day long by the intense colors of the forest, which were hyper-saturated by the diffuse sunlight created by lingering cloud cover and a film of water on everything terrestrial. Please take me on my word that the color of these tree buttresses (Tachigali versicolor) and that of this male anole’s dewlap (Norops polylepis) were not enhanced with software.




Back at the dining area at dinnertime, I heard frogs calling at an intensity level that wasn’t evident on the previous nights of my visit. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore with my ears and eyes. So, with some suggested field sites from Manuel and Renee, I set out into the night with my camera and headlamp. The first stop was along the banks of Piro River to look for glass frogs. I heard them calling in the overhead foliage but the tadpolespersistent wet conditions did not stimulate them to descend within reach of my camera’s lens. However, I could see that there were numerous egg masses of Cochranella granulosa (Grainy Cochran Frog) that were deposited some time before my arrival. Like The Gliding Tree Frog eggs I saw during the day, many of these masses, like the one pictured below, were “ripe” with very active tadpoles.





I was then drawn to standing water, by the call of a frog that I was hearing for the first time during my visit. After a little searching, I discovered it was Scinax elaeochroa (Sipurio Snouted Tree Frog) that I was hearing and now seeing for the first time ever. 


Look at those coppery eyes!





There was another species calling alongside S. elaeochroa and I knew it well. It was Dendropsophus ebraccata (The Hourglass Treefrog), that I studied in Panama while in graduate school, and their abundance that night was staggering. My mind flashed back to 1992 when I spent many wet, warm nights studying the biology of this frog because of its impressive capacity for calling. Fast-forward to the present, I was now focusing on the multitude of D. ebraccata around me because they are just so damn photogenic.

tree frog

The Hourglass Treefrog


I went to bed that night – or rather, early the next morning – reluctantly because, for the frogs, the night was still young. My hope is that in the near future, I can share these amphibian experiences with students. Although, I must confess that as I drifted off to sleep, I relished the fact that I had the frogs to myself that night.





Stay tuned for 2017 courses with Professor Ressel!


Sea Turtle Patrol on Pejeperro Beach

A blog entry by Vedant Jain (University of California Berkeley)

Hi folks or should I say Pura Vida! Here is a little snippet of one of the adventures we had here. On Wednesday morning, after a nice late start we headed to the Piro station where we met with Manuel Sanchez who gave us an introduction to the four species of local sea turtles and the sea turtle conservation efforts on the Osa Peninsula. Turtle conservation is especially important because sea turtle eggs face dangers from factors such as predators, tidal changes, and especially egg poachers. Manuel explained how different turtles come to Costa Rica at different times to lay eggs. July it turns out is an ideal time for both Olive Ridley Sea Turtles and Green Sea Turtles. We returned to camp ready for our first turtle patrol!


Osa Conservation does turtle patrols at night and in the early morning, relocating nests of turtles laid in dangerous conditions to their 2016 hatchery, or vivero in Spanish (photo by Lara Bogdanovich)


Relocated Olive Ridley nests in the sea turtle hatchery (photo by Ross Kamimoto)

At 8 pm we joined Manuel and hiked to the Pejeperro beach for our night patrol. Manuel explained that the best way of seeing animals at night is to look for eye glow. This is the light reflected when you shine a flashlight into an eye. With this knowledge Manuel helped us spot birds, frogs and crown jewel of them all an ocelot!



Manuel (right) wraps headlamps in red cellophane before beginning our night patrol (photo by Fernando Iglesias)

When we finally arrived on the beach it was honestly like a dream. The clouds had cleared up and the sky was cascaded with stars. Each one glowing with the bright illumination that you can only get without light pollution. When you took a step on the sand it would spring to life with its own vivid color, the bioluminescence complementing the light of the skies. In the background the waves crashed with perfect rhythm, a symphony of their own. It was a beautiful juxtaposition of earth, sea, and sky.

We began walking down the beach. We covered our flashlights with red cellophane because white light can scare the turtles into leaving without laying eggs. Eventually we turned off our flashlights completely, the stars providing more than enough light.

Finally, Manuel tells us to stop and he walks on ahead, he says he saw something. He gestures to come over. There hidden just below sand level is a 65 cm long female Olive Ridley laying her eggs. They say that when a turtle is laying eggs she enters almost a lucid dreaming state, whereby she never realizes that we have seen her. Manuel explains how he puts tags on every turtle they find to keep track of them. We watch as he gets the turtle ready but is unable to put the tag on because the tagging mechanism had a broken part.


The nesting turtle returning to the sea (photo by Ross Kamimoto)


Aluminum tag used to mark nesting sea turtles by Osa Conservation (photo by Ross Kamimoto)

Sitting there next to the turtle I feel like I am witnessing an ancient ritual. Turtles are some of the oldest species dating back almost 125 million years. In that moment I felt so small and insignificant to the enormity of life.


A poem by student Lara Bogdanovich about the night patrol


It’s true we carry the world inside us,

Always present like light

Or instead fleeting like galaxies in the grain

Stirred and strong by inertia


There is a narrowing absorption of the sky

So saturated it can yield no more

It shivers as eyes move across it

Like a flexible blade.

Then end circulates in the wide space of summer

Here we have what lasts;

And the soft perishable mind which doesn’t.

The end circulates in the wide space of summer

Where everything began

And goes on beginning.


A big thank you to Round River for the opportunity given to these small groups of students from study abroad programs who have the chance to experience and learn by participating in awesome field trips.



Breadfuit as Food

What is breadfruit?

As its name suggests, breadfruit is a fruit that has the same texture as baked bread and it has what many call a potato-like flavor. Part of the Mulberry Tree family that originated in the South Pacific region, almost 300 years ago, this overlooked flowering tree has recently become a hot topic in discussing hunger, poverty and nutrition. With multiple health benefits and the nutritional value this fruit provides, breadfruit could be the next super food and staple.

History of Breadfruit

Originally from present-day New Guinea, breadfruit has been cultivated for over 300,000 years and was introduced to the Western world by British explorers like Captain James Cook and William Bligh. Each of them, on their respective voyages, began to transport and spread the breadfruit tree to tropical regions like the Caribbean. Once there, the trees were successfully introduced and planted, being able to produce the so desired fruit. In fact, there are places where you can still find some of the original trees cultivated over 200 years ago.


Where Breadfruit Grows?

Breadfruit has a wide range of adaptability to various environmental conditions within the tropics. The best conditions for growth is found in the tropics, where the temperature stays between a warm 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit year round. For example, in Costa Rica the fruit is commonly found along its Caribbean coast, from Tortuguero south through Limon, Cahuita, Puerto Viejo and Manzanillo which are all places that provide the best conditions for its growth. Also, it is locally known as “fruta de pan”. Breadfruit flourishes in areas where there is an annual rainfall of 59-118 inches and soil needs to be fertile, well-drained, and deep enough for optimal growth. However, some breadfruit plants somehow manage to adapt to the shallow, sandy soils of the Pacific. They have even been seen to grow on rocky, volcanic soils in Hawaii.



Nutritional Value

Breadfruit has many health benefits and holds more nutritional value than assumed. Eating this plant you get 102 calories. Within the flesh of the fruit it holds a decent amount of fiber, Vitamin-C, carbohydrates, is an excellent source of potassium, and even contains small amounts of flavonoid anti-oxidants.

Snacking on breadfruit can help reduce blood cholesterol, obesity, blood pressure, and helps regulate heart rate. When preparing ripe, or mature, breadfruit for consumption, it is recommended for the plant to be either roasted, baked, fried, or boiled! This is just to bring out the abundant flavors the plant provides. But, you don’t have to wait until the breadfruit has ripened to eat it. Immature fruits can also be cooked, pickled, or marinated, imparting a flavor similarly to that of artichoke hearts. Thinly slicing these fruits can even be fried or baked to make homemade chips. Yum!

As for the conservation context, the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) states that breadfruit also contributes to diversified sustainable agriculture and agroforestry, improved soil conditions and watersheds, and valuable environmental benefits including the reduction of CO2.

Will Breadfruit End Global Hunger?

According to the NTBG, more than 80% of the world’s hunger-stricken communities live in tropical, or subtropical, regions — the type of environment that is perfect for growing breadfruit trees. Organizations like Global Breadfruit and NTBG Breadfruit Institute are dedicated to promoting the super food and spreading it to areas of the world that need it most.

“Every time we plant one of these trees, we’re reducing the susceptibility to famine and starvation in the country where the tree is going,” said Josh Schneider a horticulturist and partner to Global Breadfruit.

Schneider has been working with the botanical scientists and the Breadfruit Institute in Hawaii to reproduce breadfruit trees and transport them to the areas that need the most help. The Trees That Feed Foundation, for example, is planting more breadfruit trees in Haiti in effort to feed at least 1,000 orphans every day. These trees are very easy to maintain and can bear an abundance of fruit for decades. Horticultural partnerships like these help with the outstanding and healthy shipping of young plants that within time will grow into productive trees. Altogether, these alliances surely contribute to the alleviation of hunger issues but also, and not less importantly, they make widespread cultivation and reforestation feasible.

It sounds like there is a hunger, environmental and conservation hero in our midst; so let’s start planting!



Osa Conservation featured by The New York Times!

Cats of the Osa

Osa Conservation has recently been featured in a New York Times article that highlights our Wildlife Monitoring Program.

Our extensive monitoring program captures images of wildlife and their prey in order to research their abundance within Corcovado National Park, Osa Conservation properties and other private landowners and partners in collaboration with the National University of Costa Rica (UNA).

These images tell a story; they helped bring to light that the estimated fifty jaguars (a 2005 estimation) that were found in the Osa Peninsula has dwindled down to between an estimated ten and twenty.

To get the full scoop, to read the full NYT article.


jaguar camera trap

<a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/14/travel/costa-rica-eco-tourism.html”>NYT Article</a>

For more information on our camera trap program visit our website: www.osaconservation.org  

If interested in donating, visit our donate page: www.osaconservation.org/donate/ 

Community Outreach, Uncategorized

Payment for Ecosystem Services: Conservation Incentive

What are Ecosystem Services?

The concept of ecosystem services was developed in order to express the value that nature has to people and the benefits we derive from it.

Types of Ecosystem Services

There are three types of ecosystem services:  direct services, indirect services, and cultural/aesthetic services.

Direct services are the resources that we directly benefit from extracting from nature.  Drinking water, timber, natural gas and oils, plants such as cotton, and numerous other plants for medicinal benefits.  We depend on these resources so heavily that it is unfathomable to think that we could live without inputs from nature.  The chair you sit in, the clothes you wear, and even the medicine you take in the morning probably comes directly from provisioning services.

Indirect services are the benefits provided by ecosystem processes that moderate natural phenomena.  Think of these services as the “unsung heroes” of  ecosystem services.  They are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services.  For example, pollination, photosynthesis, decomposition, water purification, erosion, and even flood control.  These services maintain the natural ebbs and flows of ecosystems. While humans have, in past years, done a lot to influence these processes, they are overwhelmingly natural and our technology has not caught up to the scale that nature naturally produces.  Pollination is a great example.  Pollination is not only crucial to the reproduction of plants, but also impossible for humans to artificially create on the necessary scale.

Cultural services are the non-material benefits that contribute to the development and cultural advancement of people.   In other words, nature is beautiful–there is no price tag on the beauty of nature. Recreation, mental and physical health, tourism, aesthetic appreciation and inspiration for culture, art and design, spiritual experience and a sense of place are just a few aspects of nature that are central to the world as we know it.  While we cannot attach an accurate monetary value or economic impact to the depletion of this type of ecosystem services, it is important to understand that we must not leave a depleted world to the next generation.  

Ecosystem Services in Action

Ecosystems are by definition interconnected, codependent, and constantly evolving.  As a result, changes at any level of an ecosystem can lead to the collapse of the whole thing.  Because this can be hard to visualize, let’s take mangroves, an especially important ecosystem, as an example.  

The Mangrove is an immensely important type of tree that lines coastlines around the world.  Most plants cannot live where the mangroves do because of the constant pounding of waves, salt water, and often extreme winds.  However, mangroves have evolved to be ideal for this environment and actually thrive in these conditions.  As a result, they protect coastlines from erosion and have large, cage-like roots that serve as a nursery for many different species of marine organisms.  The mangroves provide a relatively safe, protected space for important species to lay their eggs or raise their young.  This means, that without the protection of the mangroves in the early stages of life, many of the marine species that we rely on for food such as some types of Grouper, Trout, Tarpon, and even Snapper would cease to exist.

Mangroves provide an indirect service to humans, supporting a variety of marine life that fill the bellies of millions around the world.  Despite this, people often destroy mangrove groves to develop the prime oceanfront land that they occupy–often for an oceanfront hotel or a shrimp farm.  In these cases, it is useful to have a monetary value assigned to the mangrove environment as a defense against “development” of the shoreline.  That way, the value of ecosystem services, both direct and indirect are taken into account.


What is Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES)?

Payments for ecosystem services (PES) are payments to farmers or landowners who have agreed to take certain actions to manage their land or watersheds to provide an ecological service.  The idea is that the payments assign a monetary value to the land that is for something other than the direct services and raw goods of the land.  As the payments provide incentives to landowners and managers, PES is a market-based mechanism, similar to subsidies and taxes, to encourage the conservation of natural resources.

PES in Costa Rica

Twenty years ago, Costa Rica began to pioneer programs that allow landowners to be paid for the value of the ecosystem services of their land.  This created an opportunity for landowners to earn an income while working to protect rainforests, conserve wildlife, regulate river flows, and store carbon.

Since 1997, nearly one million hectares of forest in Costa Rica has been part of these ‘payments for ecosystem services’ (PES) plans at one time or another. Meanwhile, forest cover has returned to over 50 per cent of the country’s land area, from a low of just over 20 per cent in the 1980s.

PES at Osa Conservation

Osa Conservation has been able to enroll some of our properties into this program and benefit from the country’s incentives to protect habitat. These funds allow us to pay key staff that patrol the land and ensure that there are no poachers, miners or loggers present. These same staff help us restore degraded land by collecting native tree seeds for germination, planting trees and maintaining the new tree plantings. PES does not cover all the costs associated with protecting the land in the Osa but it helps.

If you are interested in supporting our work, please donate.










Walk Through This Journey With Us: A Picture Narrative

Author/Photos: Janelle Cannon

Woke early one morning to join in on a sea turtle nest census. As our group walked the beach, I saw dozens of freshly
dug crab burrows.

crab borrows

These fast-moving crabs are digging machines!


Manuel, who works at Osa Conservation, has been monitoring sea turtle nests for 14 years.

The first nest we came upon had been pillaged by coatimundis.

turtle conservation

It was a thorough job.


Only one intact egg remained. Most nests contain 100-150 eggs, so these are treasure chests of delicious protein for
any hungry predator. Humans used to be the primary predator, but ongoing education for over one generation has
eased the pressure a bit. Poaching is not as common as it once was, allowing turtle populations to recover.

sea turtle egg

A fresh new nest, intact.

turtle nest

Mom’s tracks going back out to sea.

turtle tracks
As we moved on, we saw fresh raccoon tracks…

raccoon tracks2 raccoon tracks










…coatimundi tracks…

camoudi tracks


…vulture tracks…

vulture tracks

…raccoon AND vulture tracks…

vulture and raccoon tracks

…then in the distance we saw a full-scale nest robbery in progress by coati, black vulture and cara cara.

egg robery

As we approached, they persisted in digging and hunting.



egg robbery 4egg robbery 3egg robbery 2


They all fled when we got closer, leaving a scattered chaotic mess.

nest remains

Manuel searched for survivors, but there were none.


We went to the egg hatching shelter.

sea turtle shelter

Manuel shows the grid system which is how the eggs are reburied and spaced in such a way as to avoid possible
disease transmission, and to control temperature of the incubating eggs.

grid system

Eggs incubated in full sun hatch as mostly female, while those hatched in the cooler shaded half emerge mostly male.

grid system2

The spots with white bags contain eggs.

turtle eggs


The following morning I set out with three others, led by Osa Conservation’s Juan Carlos, cat specialist. I thought he looked a bit like a jaguar. He says that they have not seen jaguars in this area, but several pumas inhabit Osa. He sees ocelots on his rounds here, too.

juan carlos

This pathway goes near many stately primary growth trees.












This is a puma scratching near the trail. They clear away a spot and urinate on it to create territorial markers. We saw three on this trail.


Motion detecting cameras capture the passing of wild creatures.

camera trap

Near the end of the trail, a rain storm broke and we took shelter at another station. We sat with others in the ACT group
who were staying there, and watched the rain and listened to constantly rolling thunder.

CR storm

This hawk sat patiently in the drenching storm, seemingly not too uncomfortable. The sun eventually broke through,
and he began to shake off his rain-soaked feathers.


Steam rose from the forest as the temps soared as the sun’s rays beamed down.

steam rolling



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!!