Miscellaneous

Threats to the Osa’s Jaguar Population

Finding solutions and alternatives for human and feline coexistence

Since mid 2006, Aída Bustamante and Ricardo Moreno, researchers of the Wildcat Conservation Program, have worked hand in hand with FOO on applied research, education and involvement with key actors (cattle ranchers, hunters, local children and youth, ecolodges, local authorities and NGOs). We recognize the need to address the livelihoods of local human populations so that they are in a better position to care about jaguars.

Camera Trap Photo of Jaguar eating a sheep on Osa Peninsula

The long-term conservation of jaguars and their ecosystem will not be possible with scientific research alone.

 

Attacks on domestic animals by large cats have triggered retaliation; and at  least twelve jaguars have been killed in the last two years in the Osa peninsula. Hence, the Wildcat Conservation Program decided to sell T-shirts and raise funds to compensate people that have lost their animals by jaguar or puma attacks. So far, we are the only such compensation program in Central America and have paid for 16 animals up to now, including domestic pigs, sheep and calves.

Aida Bustamante and Ricardo Moreno in Panama with Dr. Hirsch

Aida Bustamante and Ricardo Moreno in Panama with Dr. Hirsch

Ricardo Moreno, Dr. Ben Hirsch, Aída Bustamante and a male ocelot in Barro Colorado Island in Panama. Ricardo and Aída went to Panama to collaborate with Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Roland Kays, trying to capture ocelots and tag them with GPS radio collars to detect behavioral changes. They managed to capture two females and a juvenile male, which indicates a high capture rate for the species across its range of distribution. The idea is to use this technology in the near future in the Osa Peninsula.

Jaguars on the Osa Peninsula represent an important isolated population of this ecologically vital species. The long term survival of this local population is uncertain. One important way to help ensure their future would be the establishment of a protected biological corridor between Corcovado National Park on the peninsula and Piedras Blancas National Park on the mainland. Despite years of research and effort by an international group of environmental organizations, this wildlife corridor has not been established. An increase in land development for vacation homes is driving up land values in the lands within and around the Golfo Dulce Forest reserve, threatening Jaguar habitat.

The total number of Jaguars on the Osa is unknown. A study on Corcovado Park published in 2007 suggested through extrapolation, a density of around 30-40 individuals in the area of the park. However, a number of factors make estimation difficult.

Recently Aida responded to a supporter’s question on the number of Jaguars on the Friends of the Osa Facebook page with the following:

“It is really hard to say a “number” because there are not studies for the whole Osa Peninsula and it is not recommended to extrapolate the data, because the conditions (habitat, prey availability, poaching, etc) are very different–even in this small area. But we did a really intensive study in 2007 in the Matapalo-Corcovado area and we found 25 ocelots, 22 pumas and 4 jaguars. Sadly, people still kill them a lot (we know that at least 12 in less than 2 years), mainly when jaguars predate on livestock or domestic animals, when natural prey is scarce in the forest due to poaching.”

Since availability of food limits the population, the Osa can only support so many Jaguars. This makes the loss of the twelve animals Aida mentions a major impact on the total population. Our efforts are vital because the next several years will prove crucial to the Osa Peninsula’s Jaguars.

To support the Wildcat Conservation Project, please visit the FOO website and make a donation.

Science and Research, Sea Turtles

Friends of the Osa – Protecting the Wildlife of the Osa Peninsula

Welcome to the new weblog of Friends of the Osa. Here we will post news and updates about our programs, activities and important developments affecting the ecology and wildlife of the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica, Central America.

Friends of the Osa (FOO) also known as Amigos de Osa, runs a research station and field programs working to protect the globally significant biodiversity found on the Osa Peninsula.

At the Osa Biodiversity Center work centers around supporting scientific research and environmental education, as well as hands on programs like the Sea Turtle Conservation project. Each year researchers and volunteers follow the arrival of several species of sea turtles that nest on the nearby beach, tagging turtles, protecting nests and hatchlings, and compiling important data on the numbers of animals and the success of their nests.

At the Cerro Osa Station, FOO is working to reforest areas adjacent to the Osa National Wildlife Refuge (ONWR), a stewardship program in partnership with local landowners. This important refuge forms a biological corridor through the privately held lands outside the protection of the nearby national park. Managing this important corridor for the Osa’s monkeys, jungle cats and other species is another of our projects.

At our offices in Puerto Jiménez, the small town where most of the local population live, our Costa Rican staff are involved in several programs designed to help the region deal with rapid development, and the rising amount of trash and pollution that come with it. Here our work on clean water and recycling efforts have had the most impact.

Osa is a rare and exceptional place, for it’s beauty and because of the high diversity of species, one of the most biodiverse places in the hemisphere. Despite this world class status, it is a remote and often ignored corner of a developing nation. It is under extreme threat as pressure to develop and modernize reaches Costa Rica. Threats include projects for industrial scale fish farms, increase in the scale of gravel mining, efforts to reopen old gold mining operations, even within protected areas, over-development for tourism including increased air traffic, new airports, water use by and sewage from hotels. Meanwhile, global climate change and increased pressure on species outside the peninsula threaten to make Osa a biological island. There is a dire need for the completion of the plan to create protected corridors between Corcovado Park, the major national park on the peninsula and the Piedras Blancas Park on the mainland.

In Washington DC, our staff work to provide funding and to raise awareness about our programs. We have worked to build strong alliances with local, regional and international partner organizations including The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, ACOSA, MINAET (Costa Rica’s Ministry of Energy and Environment) and others.

Your support is important to us, too, and by signing the email list and keeping in touch, by fanning our facebook page and getting your friends to do the same, or by becoming a volunteer and helping us in our work, or by donating and showing that you think what we are doing is important.

Any way that you can join us means a lot. So keep reading this blog, check back and comment on what you see.