The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is a species in danger of extinction. In Costa Rica, there are only two healthy populations of scarlet macaws, the largest of which is located on the Osa Peninsula. This population is estimated to be between 800 and 1200 individuals (Dear et al 2010). This population was almost completely eliminated due to the illegal removal of trees for timber and agriculture, hunting for food, and illegal trade of Macaws as pets. During the last two decades, commercial logging and hunting of birds has decreased significantly, and the population of Macaws of the Osa Peninsula has increased rapidly. However, the loss of natural cavities in the trees used as nests for these animals has greatly limited the recovery of their populations. A study in recent years recommended long-term conservation that combines environmental education in local schools, community involvement, and stricter penalties for hunters and the Lapa Roja habitat destroyers (Guittar et al 2008).
With the same clumsiness as their mothers, the small reptiles descend slowly down the sloped beach. One by one they go, leaving behind a trail of life in the sand.
Seven weeks ago, after a journey spanning hundreds, perhaps thousands of kilometers, an adult olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) pushed through the foaming waves on Pejeperro beach in the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica, to begin an ancient, unique and exquisite journey.
By Hansel Herrera Vargas
Hansel Herrera Vargas, a Costa Rican biologist with a Bachelor’s degree from Berry College, Georgia, USA, is Osa Conservation’s new volunteer coordinator. The following is his first-hand account of his move to the Osa. Hansel has been very busy this summer, as the 2012 Sea Turtle Volunteer Program is well under way. Apply today for this opportunity to experience the wonderful Osa Peninsula!
I embarked on my first journey to the Osa Peninsula just before sunset on a rainy July afternoon. The road south brought glimpses of a magical landscape where the jungle mixes with the sea. My lungs filled with dozens of new scents: the sweet smell of Mamon Chino (Nephelium lappaceum), the soft smell of Carambola (Averrhoa carambola), the stench of Nonis (Morinda citrifolia), the Mimbro fruit (Averrhoa bilimbí), guava (Inga edulis), cocoa (Theobroma cacao), and many others.
The road to Puerto Jimenez brings one across many rivers and many histories. There are dozens of towns and cities dotting the road from Costa Rica’s capital to the Osa, and the nine hour bus ride is filled with sightings of beautiful mountains and valleys, exotic birds, and ancient trees.