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!
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.
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).
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.
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
- Comunidad Rancho Quemado
- Comunidad Los Planes
- Comunidad Alto Laguna
- Comunidad Rio Tigre