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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.

 

Osa Camera Network

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

 

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Unexpected guests for supper

Blogpost written by Dr. Andrew Whitworth, Director of Restoration Ecology & Biodiversity Conservation

 

Last night, as I prepared my evening feed (rice with something), I heard a strange and unfamiliar squeaking sound from outside. I grabbed my head torch (aka.flashlight) and out I went. This is what I found.

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Eyelash pit viper starting its meal (Photo by Andrew Whitworth)

 

I couldn’t believe it. Ever since moving to live on the Osa Peninsula in February, I have been desperate to see the stunning eyelash pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii), but so far they had eluded me. This isn’t surprising considering their awesome camouflage- forest green broken up with strokes and flecks of red and yellow. However, this chappie had been given away, by the poor little robber frog (Craugastor fitzingeri) who was now … supper.

I rushed back inside, still barefoot, to grab my camera; and for the next twenty five minutes, watched and photographed (without flash!) while the whole process unfolded. Many people believe that snakes can dislocate their jaws, but this isn’t really true. They do however have some unbelievably loose fitting and complex bone structures in the jaw and head. These can expand away from each other and allow the left and right side of the jaws to move independently; left first, then the right and then the left, and so on and so on…until they finally swallow their supper whole!

What was strange about this encounter for me was that the snake ate the frog from the back first. Most snake species will actually make an effort to search out the head of their prey first, and begin swallowing from there, to ensure no problems in fitting awkward pointing limbs in their mouths. Maybe this froggy was small and flexible enough to pose no issues.

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Eyelash pit viper eating its meal, legs first (Photo by Andrew Whitworth)

 

What was very cool though was that as the right sided fang of the snake moved along, a young secondary fang was visible, tucked away in the protective sheath. Vipers frequently lose these fangs and so new ones grow quickly behind. These cheeky little vipers are never caught without their weapons, just in case a meal is rightly available.

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Eyelash pit viper, close-up of the secondary fang (Photo by  Andrew Whitworth)

 

It wasn’t long until all that was left … was a foot –  just hanging from the viper’s mouth.

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Eyelash pit viper, finishing up its meal (Photo by Dr. Andrew Whitworth)

 

The frog then travelled down through the snakes body, pushed by the rippling muscles and inner organs, where over the coming few days, intense gastric juices would digest the frog, bones and all. This froggy snack could actually sustain this little snake for the next month at least, if food is scarce-  a feat I am extremely jealous of… as I seem to need to feed every couple of hours or so.

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Eyelash pit viper, digesting its meal (Photo by Andrew Whitworth)

 

According to my neighbour and reforestation fanatic, Agustin Mendoza, these snakes aren’t so common in the low lying areas of the peninsula next to the ocean. They typically thrive higher up on Cerro Osa, where there is a cool refreshing breeze; who says snakes aren’t smart?! What an incredible snake and one of my top five herping moments in my life so far!

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Eyelash pit viper (Photo by  Andrew Whitworth)

(To see some of Andy’s free amphibian and reptile field guides from the Amazon, click here, here and here.)

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The Greater Grison: a bit of a mystery in the Osa

Blog Post by Lesley Mould, DC Office Intern

Osa Conservation’s rainforest camera traps have been capturing some very exciting footage recently! One camera recorded a particularly remarkable video of a Greater Grison. Watching clips of the camera trap footage in the D.C. office motivated me to investigate some of the more unusual species that are native to the Osa, starting with the Greater Grison.

The Greater Grison is a member of the weasel family. It is native to South and Central America and inhabits forest and cerrado habitats. It is typically found near rivers or streams, and in elevations ranging from 500 to 2,000 meters. The Greater Grison population is actually doing very well, despite the fact that they are rarely seen in the wild. In fact, there is considerable debate in the scientific community over whether the Greater Grison is diurnal or nocturnal, which makes it all the more exciting that we got a video of one exploring the rainforest in the daylight!

Greater Grison

Photo by linnaeus1758

When the weasel-like carnivore is not hunting, it spends its time hidden away in dark and isolated spaces, such as hollowed out trees or abandoned animal burrows. It feeds on various vertebrates, including fish, amphibians, and small mammals. The grison has a particularly interesting hunting style. It begins by moving in a zig-zag pattern, stopping occasionally to lift its head and sniff the air. When it finally locates its prey, it gets very low to the ground and commences a series of grunts, which escalate to barks, and culminate in a single scream while fiercely baring its teeth. Once the grison catches its prey, it delivers a fatal bite to the back of the neck. Although the predators of the Greater Grison are not entirely known, they possess a distinct defense mechanism. When threatened, they will spray a yellow-green musk produced by its scent glands to thwart predators and mark its territory.

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Although they spend the majority of their time alone, grisons seek out multiple partners during breeding season in January and February. Females produce litters of two to four. Newborns weigh around 50 grams and are blind for the first three weeks of their lives, but grow quickly and reach full adult size in just four months. If you haven’t seen the video from our camera trap yet, check it out below:

 

 

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Put an End to Harmful Plastic Pollution

Blogpost written by Emily Bartone, Sea Turtle Research Field Assistant

Working with the sea turtle program, I feel lucky to spend my mornings patrolling Osa’s picturesque beaches looking for nesting sea turtles. However, one feature that can often distract from the beauty of these beaches is the presence of plastic waste that still finds its way to the coastline. While this pollution is unsightly, more importantly, it’s harmful to wildlife.

Volunteers clean up trash on Piro Beach

Despite ongoing beach clean ups,  plastics can accumulate on our beaches because it washes up with the tide. What doesn’t make it to shore likely gets caught up in one of the several massive gyres of trash floating in the world’s ocean. Because plastic is non-biodegradable, these gyres are forever growing. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been produced still exists in some form. It may break down into tinier pieces, but it will never disappear.

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Sea turtles are particularly susceptible to the dangers from marine plastic. Throughout the oceans, sea turtles are commonly found tangled in discarded fishing nets, unable to swim for food or air. Some turtle species that rely on jellyfish for food, such as the endangered leatherback, mistake floating plastic bags for this prey. Sea turtles are unable to digest the plastic they eat, so it accumulates in their gut and creates deadly blockages. As more and more plastic pieces enter the ocean, it’s becoming impossible for turtles to avoid consuming it.

Volunteers clean up beach trash

 

While our efforts to complete beach clean-ups in the Osa make an important difference in reducing the plastic in these ecosystems, there are many ways that the average person can also help prevent the plastic from arriving in the first place.

Consider the waste that you create in a day – how much of it is plastic? Bottles, bags, packaging… likely all plastic! One small lifestyle change people can make to reduce their plastic waste and help protect sea turtles is to minimize their use of single-use plastics. This includes things like packaging of individually wrapped snacks. Instead, buy in bulk and store your purchase in your own container; carry reusable water bottles and shopping bags; ask for your drink without a straw at a restaurant; carry silverware in your bag to avoid plastic cutlery. Remember to ask yourself: While it may be more convenient for a moment, is it worth endangering wildlife and polluting the planet for eternity?

Help us protect sea turtles and minimize the plastics that make their way to our oceans.

 

 

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Dung Beetles: More than Meets the Eye

Blog Post by Eleanor Flatt, Biodiversity and Restoration Research Field Assistant and Dung Beetle enthusiast

It is 1 o’clock in the morning, rain is breaking through the forest canopy. It is pitch black, and I am just about to wriggle out of my jungle hammock to check pitfall traps … again. This experience was not due to insanity, but for science. Specifically, my aim is to observe when distinct species of dung beetles are most active to better understand their role in the ecosystem. This task is just part of the research I am carrying out on dung beetles here at Osa Conservation.

Photo by Nick Hawkins, Dung beetle in action

Photo by Nick Hawkins, Dung beetle in action

Dung beetles are very important in terms of ecological function within a tropical forest. They provide waste removal, soil aeration, nutrient cycling and secondary seed dispersal. All dung beetle communities are dynamic, relating to environmental features, habitat type, spatial distribution, dispersal capacities and interspecific interactions. Dung beetles are awesome as an indicator group, as they are super susceptible to changes in their environment. 

Photo by Nick Hawkins, Dung beetle in the Osa peninsula

Photo by Nick Hawkins, Dung beetle in the Osa peninsula

Understanding the dung beetle communities in different forest types can be a useful monitoring tool in reforestation projects. Dung beetles serve as a reference point of forest health and help set what we call a “primary forest baseline” which gives a restoration goal to work towards as we continue our studies.

The research we are conducting helps us to understand how the mechanisms that cause dung beetle diversity to decline are linked to changes in landscape structure and mammal populations. As the demand for palm oil plantations here in Costa Rica grows, this information could be very useful for the conservation of biodiversity, especially here in the mega diverse Osa Peninsula.

Photo by Nick Hawkins, Eleanor Flatt studying dung beetles at Osa Conservation

Photo by Nick Hawkins, Eleanor Flatt studying dung beetles at Osa Conservation

Dung beetles are often overlooked, but they have so much to offer. Not only do they benefit the ecosystem they live in, but they give people like us a better understanding of the effects of the changes we cause.

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From the Field: Ríos Saludables Program Update

Blogpost written by Hilary Brumberg, Ríos Saludables Program Coordinator 

Hello fellow nature enthusiasts! My name is Hilary Brumberg, and I am the new coordinator of the Ríos Saludables (Healthy Rivers) program. I just graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut a few weeks ago with a degree in environmental science and Spanish, and I am a Princeton in Latin America fellow.

My day-to-day activities here in the Osa Peninsula are very different from those in urban Connecticut. Each morning, I crawl out of my bug net and emerge among the mango trees on our organic farm. I chat with my fellow research field assistants over breakfast about their projects, ranging from releasing baby sea turtles to setting dung beetle traps.

Photo by Sawyer Judge, team testing water quality for Ríos Saludables

Photo by Sawyer Judge, team testing water quality for Ríos Saudables

Here in Osa, no two days are the same. I just finished June water quality testing at our community sites. This includes traveling around the peninsula, meeting dedicated conservationists and families who are curious about the effects of agriculture and roads on their neighborhood water source. The testing has allowed me to meet many friendly faces, including the manager of a farmers’ co-op, a town director of ecotourism, watershed managers, gardeners at an eco-lodge, and families concerned about the cleanliness of the rivers where their kids swim.

Photo by Sawyer Judge, Hilary and Cole test nitrate levels at Rio Corozales

Photo by Sawyer Judge, Hilary and Cole test nitrate levels at Rio Corozales with the Ríos Saludables program

To study the river water quality, we examine both what is dissolved in the water (chemistry) and what is alive in the water (biology). We survey the rivers for our mighty mini-beasts, or macroinvertebrates, whose presence indicate the health of the river because they are sensitive to pollution. While chemical monitoring provides a “snapshot” of the water quality at the time of sampling, macroinvertebrates tell a story about what is happening in the stream over a period of time. Results of the chemical tests and macroinvertebrate surveys indicate that human land use negatively affects the water health.

Photo by Sawyer Judge, Nelson collects leaf litter at Rio Carbonera to look for macroinvertebrates

Photo by Sawyer Judge, Nelson collects leaf litter at Rio Carbonera to look for macroinvertebrates

I am designing a study to look at the effects of oil palm and teak tree farming on river health. Eventually, I plan to expand the study to examine how these processes affect important mangrove ecosystems. I am excited to spend the coming months exploring new rivers and ecosystems around the Osa Peninsula!

For those, such as myself, who love field research, data analysis, environmental education, speaking Spanish, looking for bugs, and splashing in rivers with kids, the Ríos Saludables is a perfect opportunity.

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Coral restoration, citizen science and partners in the Osa

Blogpost by Sawyer Judge

“Was your coral scouting successful?” I hear a lovely British accent come calling from the stairs. Two dogs come bounding down the stairs to the beach as Harvey is helping us out of the boat. The owner of the accent, Susan, makes her way towards us. “How was the boat ride, loves? Come refresh with some juice in the kitchen. It’s cas juice! Fresh made!”

There are six of us visiting the Saladero EcoLodge that Harvey and Susan call home. Harvey and Susan are long-time partners of Osa Conservation, and they’re housing us for a night while we look for sites for the new coral restoration project that our Citizen Science Director, Luis Vargas, is directing. RFA and photographer Eleanor Flatt and I, a donor-retention and administration intern, are accompanying him to document the project. Also with us are members of the National Institute of Learning (INA) – a project partner. We’ve just finished with the work of scouting out some good sites for the project. Harvey is very knowledgeable of the area, and it turns out that the best place to install an underwater coral nursery may actually be right off the coast of Saladero itself!

Picture of the scenery around Saladero EcoLodge

Picture of the scenery around Saladero EcoLodge

We’re glad the coral restoration will take place at Saladero for a number of reasons. The property is nestled in the lush, bay-side rain forest around Golfo Dulce, and it’s a picture perfect example of how conservation and ecotourism live in harmony. Over a pleasant lunch of open-faced tortilla pill-ups, garnished with Harvey’s home-made hot sauce, I learn a little more about the scope of their work.

Some coral found in Golfo Dulce

Some coral found in Golfo Dulce

When Harvey decided that his homeland of Florida wasn’t hot enough for his liking, he and Susan purchased the 480 acres of lowland tropical forest where Saladero rests. They’ve conserved not only the surrounding bay, but enough primary forest for three extensive trails and a mangrove system. Saladero acts as a base for ecotourists, birdwatchers, researchers, and the national park service when monitoring illegal poaching and fishing activity. Much of their conservation work, however, happens in conjunction with Osa Conservation. Camera traps on their trails aid in collecting data on big cats and other mammals as part of our Biological Monitoring Program, and Harvey and Susan conduct quarterly samples of macro-invertebrates to monitor their river health for Rios Saludables. Now they’re excited to welcome our Marine Education and coral restoration efforts as well.

After lunch, Harvey gives us a tour of the property. His background is in carpentry, so the functionality and design of the space is very important. Saladero has everything from a space for students to set up tents and cook outdoors to up-most accommodation for “glamping.” Harvey even got the permits to build some of it himself. The property runs on hydro-electric and solar-electric energy systems. They even have a solar-heated shower. In addition to the facilities themselves, the botanical and agricultural projects they run are impressive to say the least. Walking through the grounds, we help ourselves to the delicious fruits of overflowing mimon and mangosteen trees. We smell the blossoms of the Ylang-ylang tree, the oil of which perfumes Channel No. 5, and we learn about the incredible medicinal properties of the bitter ash tree. Harvey and Susan strive to cook with the ingredients they grow. They even ferment their pineapple into a lovely vinegar, and sometimes make their own chocolate.

Sunset seen from Saladero EcoLodge

Sunset seen from Saladero EcoLodge

After the tour, Eleanor and I borrow paddle boards from the shack and enjoy the sunset, floating on the calm sea. Like magic, we saw sting rays jump from the water and even a group of dolphins before we head back to shore for dinner. Dinner is wood-fired pizza – Harvey’s specialty since he built the wood-fired oven 6 years ago – and traditional coconut ice cream. Susan explains that they often try to incorporate local custom into nature education and experience at Saladero, and their employees contribute a lot to the customs Saladero adopts. “We’re a family here,” says Susan, her eyes sparkling through her purple, wide-rimmed glasses.

Osa Conservation is lucky to have partners like Harvey and Susan at Saladero. Their hospitality extends not only to visitors, but to our conservation programs. They’re hosts for humans and nature alike, and experts at conserving a little piece of paradise.

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The Unexpected Values of Vanilla

Blogpost written by Lesley Mould, Intern

Since vanilla is so popular, it was surprising to learn how challenging it is to grow it in the wild! Vanilla is one of the many rare and distinct plants that can be found in the Osa. The uniqueness of the vanilla plant is fascinating, and its potential to both reforest and spur regional development is heartening in a field that can often be cynical.  As an intern in Osa Conservation’s Washington, D.C. office with a strong interest in botany, I find the traits and characteristics of the vanilla plant incredibly enticing.

 

A brief history of Vanilla

Vanilla is the most popular flavoring in the world, the second most expensive, and an incredibly time- and labor-intensive crop. In the 17th century, factories to manufacture the vanilla flavor began to emerge throughout Europe. Vanilla became a common commercial crop in 1841 after Edmond Albius discovered an effective method for hand pollination. This is still the dominant harvesting methodology today.

Photo by Osa Conservation

Photo by Osa Conservation

Fast Facts about Vanilla

The vanilla grown in Costa Rica is a Vanilla planifolia. The vanilla vine grows on a host tree, and if unattended, can grow up to 30 meters and reach the tops of forests. The vanilla bean is the fruit of the Vanilla orchid, and is the only edible fruit of the 25,000 orchid species native to Central America and the surrounding regions. The vanilla flower only blooms for 24 hours, and if it is not pollinated, the plant dies and the beans cannot be used. There are over 50 species of vanilla, but only a few of them are used for flavoring.

Vanilla must be grown in a moist, tropical climate between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and between 10 and 20 degrees north and south of the Equator. It is impossible to grow the same vanilla vine in the more than one country because of soil and climate variances, so each growing region produces vanilla with a slightly different flavor.

Photo by Osa Conservation

Photo by Osa Conservation

Vanilla Pollination

Manual pollination of the vanilla plant is done with a very small stick and takes a great amount of time and precision. Fertilization by a native species is incredibly rare—so rare, in fact, that scientists are unsure of exactly which species are pollinators. It has been suggested that the Melipona bee is a vanilla pollinator, but its small size makes is an unlikely candidate.

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Photo by Osa Conservation

Vanilla Conservation

Conservation of the vanilla plant is of paramount importance. Its labor-intensive cultivation, niche growing environment, short life-cycle, and extraordinarily high demand place a great deal of pressure on vanilla crops. That is why Osa Conservation is excited to help further this conservation research! An exciting project is under development, so stay tuned for more information on what is happening in the field as Osa Conservation works towards gaining a better understanding of the role of vanilla in the rainforest.

Osa Conservation’s BioStation is the perfect place to conduct further research on the vanilla plant and its pollination. We have several vanilla plants, both wild and domesticated, that researchers can observe and study, and maybe even use to find new solutions to the problems of deforestation, regional underdevelopment, and vanilla shortage!

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Why the Osa is Impossible to Forget

Blogpost written by Robert Baker, Volunteer

Hi, my name is Bob Baker. For the past 10 years, my wife Lindsay and I have come to the Osa Peninsula for two weeks every March. We come to enjoy what National Geographic calls the “most biologically intense place on earth.” We typically stay in vacation rentals in the Cabo Matapalo area which is about 18km south of Puerto Jimenez at the tip of the peninsula. Last March (2016), we arranged to visit Osa Conservation’s biological station and during our visit,  Manuel Sanchez (Sea Turtle Program Coordinator) asked if we would like to join him on a sea turtle beach patrol one evening. Joining Manuel, and rescuing and releasing 17 baby Green sea turtles to the ocean was such an amazing experience that I decided to become a sea turtle volunteer with the program again this past March for a week.

Photo by Bob Baker

Photo by Bob Baker

On the first day, we met for an orientation session and learned that our duties would begin at 5:00am the next morning when Manuel, our supervisor, would meet us at the dining station. From there we started our hike to Piro beach and began our first sea turtle patrol.

Beach patrols as a sea turtle volunteer involve walking, paying attention and more walking. Manuel taught us that there are primarily 2 species of sea turtles that visit this beach, as well as Pejeperro beach, for nesting purposes. These are the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and the Green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas). Leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) and Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) also occasionally visit these beaches. We even got to see a Leatherback nest during our stint. Manuel taught us about the different species and how to identify them. For example, Olive Ridley sea turtles leave asymmetrical, or alternating, tracks. On the other hand, Green turtles leave wider, symmetrical tracks due to their size.

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

On this first morning, we recovered approximately 100 Green sea turtle eggs and carried them to the hatchery. The hatchery is a covered area within the vegetation just off the beach. Careful to maintain the same dimensions as the original nest, we dug a hole in the hatchery compound placed the eggs in the new “nest,” We then removed about 25 Green sea turtle hatchlings from another nest and watched them make their small journey to the waiting ocean. Fantastic!

The next morning, we were up at 3:30am to patrol the longer Pejeperro beach. We found Green and Olive Ridley tracks and a few new nests. We did not remove the eggs  from their nests on this beach due to lesser rates of poaching and predation.

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

During my week as a sea turtle volunteer, I saw other wildlife including Fiery-Billed aracaris, baby Green iguanas, a Red-eyed tree frog, Yellow-headed caracaras, Squirrel monkeys and a Common potoo. Although we did not see them, we used our skills to determine that other species were nearby.  Manuel, Delaney and I hiked to a camera trap and found an amazing photo of a jaguar. This jaguar had been in front of this camera the previous evening. Manuel was so excited because it was the second jaguar they had seen and documented recently. We also encountered Puma “scratchings” on the trail to the camera trap location.

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Later in the week, alone on the Ajo trail I came upon a herd of approximately 50 White-lipped peccaries. At first, I thought they were the more common Collared peccaries. However,  Osa Conservation’s Andy Whitworth later corrected me and explained that Collared Peccaries travel in small groups (usually no more than 10-20). White-lipped Peccaries travel in herds from anywhere between 50-300 individuals.  After showing Manuel my photos he confirmed they were of the white-lipped variety. The abundance of peccaries, one of the jaguar’s natural prey, further explain the jaguar in the vicinity.

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

Photo by Manuel Sanchez

On my last full day, I went out on 2 patrols (Piro at 3:30am and Pejeperro at 8pm), transferred 137 Olive Ridley eggs to the hatchery, hiked the Ajo and Tangara trails, visited 2 camera traps and  hiked to the Sunset rocks to watch another beautiful Pacific Ocean sunset. The next morning, I went on my last sea turtle patrol with Manuel and Marina (a new research assistant). Tired from the night before, we doggedly walked the beach. We ended up transferring 93 Olive Ridley eggs to the hatchery, a great way to end my sea turtle volunteer experience. A big thanks to Manuel, Alejandra, Karla, Rachael and Andy for their support and making this a wonderful life experience. Cheers!