Uncategorized

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!

Uncategorized

The Quest for Nests: Researching Sea Turtle Nesting Habits

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Love has been in the air for our friendly sea turtles nesting along the beaches in the Osa Peninsula. Over the past few months, La Programa de Tortugas Marinas has been following the nesting habits of sea turtles on the Piro and Peje Perro beaches in hopes of finding out more about the number of turtles nesting on these shores. These beaches happen to be two of the most critical locations for nesting in the Osa, which makes this research extremely vital. Staff has been monitoring this project by walking along the beaches and counting the number of natural nests, nesting sites, and false nests! (A false nest, otherwise known as a false crawl, is a nest where a female turtle does not actually lay her eggs).

During the months of October, November, and December, Osa Conservation’s sea turtle conservation program spent between 75 and 105 hours sampling the nesting locations at the Piro and Peje Beaches. On Piro Beach, there were a total number of 173 nests found. The nests were made by the two most common species of sea turtle in the Osa, the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) and the Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas). On Peje Perro Beach, approximately 380 nests were found from our two turtle species. An interesting fact from the results of the sampling is, of the 553 nests found across the two beaches, 140 of the nests happened to be false nests!

Alongside the nest research occurring in the Osa, we also welcomed visitors of local hotels in Costa Rica to help us release over 7,000 turtles from October to December!

 

Photo courtesy of: Manuel Sanchez Mendoza

Volunteers and Visitors

Treefrog Breeding Frenzy!

Cesar Barrio-Amoros holds a PhD in biology and is a notable taxonomist, herpetologist, author, and photographer. Following his experience in the Osa, reflected below, Cesar has planned to lead a reptile and amphibian workshop at Piro Biological Station next May or June, the beginning of the wet season.

I have traveled throughout most of Latin America in search of amazing herping spectacles. In the Galapagos, I saw marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) and Galapagos giant tortoises (Chelonoidis nigra). I witnessed an astonishing diversity of poison frogs in Peru and made some interesting scientific discoveries on the Tepuis of Venezuela. My curiosity has now led me to one of the tiniest countries: Costa Rica. Here, the herpetological diversity is bewildering and vibrant. Due to Costa Rica’s intense biodiversity, it is not difficult for a photographer to capture nearly all of the herping species in a matter of years.

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The gliding treefrog (Agalychnis spurrelli) was on the top of my herping list after learning about it on a BBC documentary. I have actually seen the individual species in the Caribbean and Pacific lowlands. However, I never saw one of those impressive reproductive aggregations where thousands of frogs gather in a pond and lay millions of eggs in just a few nights.

I was envious of the photographs my colleague, Manuel Sanchez, captured while working at Osa Conservation’s Piro Biological Station in the Osa Peninsula. I immediately scheduled a visit to see the event. When I arrived, Manuel informed me that the area was full of frogs, thousands were laying eggs in amplexus (amplectant pairs).

Around 6:00AM the next morning, we left for our journey along with herpetologist intern and researcher, Michelle Thompson. At the site, we noticed some bushes moving and, upon further investigation, realized there were a few frogs still laying eggs. The great wave was the previous night so only about 10% frogs remained.

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Still, it was a breathtaking sight because they were completely surrounded by millions of eggs! Michelle and I were amazed — this was quite an experience for a herpetologist. Next time, I need to arrive a few days in advance in order to catch the whole spectacle!

Sea Turtles

Birth of a Sea Turtle: Notes from the beach

A Green sea turtle nests on Pejeperro Beach

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.

Read More »

Marine Conservation, Science and Research

Osa Conservation Supports Research in Golfo Dulce: A Humpback Whale Hotspot

These three photos show a baby Humpback whale next to its resting mama – TOP: nursing; MIDDLE: breathing; and BOTTOM: spyhopping

A variety of whale species may be found in the eastern Pacific Ocean off the coast of Costa Rica, including Byrde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni), Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) and Killer whale (Orcinus orca). But the most commonly seen whale inside the Golfo Dulce is the Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), a species that annually migrates from colder feeding grounds near the magnetic poles to warmer equatorial breeding and birthing grounds.

In fact, the area around the Osa Peninsula is a really special place for Humpbacks — it is the only known place in the world where the migration paths of whales from both the northern and southern hemispheres cross over. Because the Arctic and Antarctic seasons are opposing, Humpbacks from the North Pacific Ocean spend time inside the Golfo Dulce during January and February while Humpbacks from the Southern Ocean normally arrive during July and August. That means whales are coming and going from the gulf throughout much of the year.

We logged 25 Humpbacks during our surveys, mostly mothers with young calves. The whales were often seen traveling up into the embayment, possibly seeking sanctuary from the open sea. We even witnessed a baby Humpback nursing — an experience Jorge and I will never forget! That sighting plus birthing events reported to us during both seasons suggest that embayment may even be a haven for Humpback nativity. Isn’t that remarkable? Indeed, the more we learn about the role the Golfo Dulce plays in the whales’ ecology, the more important it appears.

It is incredible to think how far Humpback whales travel to visit the Golfo Dulce and we can only hope the calm gulf waters will always offer those gentle titans safe retreat at the end of their long journey.

Brooke Bessesen conducted Marine research at the Osa in 2010 and 2011 as a recipient of the Greg Gund Memorial Fellowship. Check out her Golfo Dulce report on our website.

Birds, Volunteers and Visitors

The 2011 Christmas Bird Count Summary Is Up!

The 2011 Osa Peninsula Audubon Christmas Bird Count summary is finally in. This Christmas, participants included Osa Conservation, Bosque del Rio Tigre, Bosque del Cabo, El Remanso, Iguana Lodge, Luna Lodge, Lapa Ríos, SurcosTours and Blue Ave. Participants spent 78.5 hours monitoring birds in the Osa Peninsula, spotting a total of 4,506 birds. Click here for the full report!

Sea Turtles

Cleaning the Beach for Sea Turtles

August 7th represented the second Day of Beach Cleaning along sea turtle nesting beaches in Osa.  With the participation of around 150 volunteers from the community, local hotels, personnel from Osa Conservation Area, Frontier volunteers and Osa Conservation employees, we were able to collect waste along 12 km of beaches, from Carate to Matapalo.

Starting off early in the morning to take advantage of low tide, the groups divided up throughout the area with plastic bags, gloves, sun screen and lots of water.  The day of cleaning continued past noon, when the participants came together at the Piro Biological Station to have lunch and end with a soccer game.

As with every year, the majority of the waste found on the beaches was plastic bottles and pieces of Styrofoam, which shows us how businesses and consumers still have to work towards being more environmentally responsible.

We hope that this clean-up will help the sea turtles in their difficult journey from the sea to the beach and back again, a journey that, although short, implies a great physical effort on their part which they undertake with the goal of conserving their species.

Thank you to the following participants:
Lapa Rios, Bosque del Cabo, El Remanso, the Bellanero family, Hacienda Rio Oro,  ISEAMI, Lookout Inn, Finca Exótica, Luna Lodge, La Leona Lodge, ACOSA, FRONTIER, the community and Asdrúbal Cordero.

Community Outreach, Environmental Education

What’s happening with Foo’s Community Environmental Education and Outreach Programs?

Parade for International Year of Forests Celebration

Stencil painting activity with ASCONA for International Year of Forests

Puerto Jimenez students performing a traditional dance for International Year of Forests celebration

Check out these exciting programs and events happening in Osa!


INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF FORESTS

In celebration of the United Nations International Year of Forests, FOO’s environmental education program began tropical rainforest workshops in April with students and teachers from 13 Osa schools.

There was an exciting opening event on Saturday April 30th, with the participation of MINAET and ICE and the collaboration of organizations such as TNC, Neotropica, Yaguara, ACEPESA, Shark Quest, ASCONA and RANA Group.  The event featured fun education and recreational activities as well as lectures and presentations of research happening throughout the Osa Peninsula.

The celebration will continue in August, September and October with a student reforestation campaign aiming to plant 4,000 native trees along Osa’s deforested stream banks!

Face painting fun at International Year of Forests event

SUSTAINABLE WATER MANAGEMENT
This year, Friends of the Osa’s environmental education program has partnered with the Central American Association for Economy, Health and Environment (ACEPESA) on a project called “Capacity Building in Coastal Communities of the Golfo Dulce to Improve Sanitary Conditions.”  This program serves to educate the communities of La Palma, Guadeloupe, Puerto Escondido, and students and teachers of 10 Osa schools, about the importance of watershed protection and the sustainable management of water resources.  Through this program, students will learn about the merits of alternative wastewater management systems, such as bioswales—systems that function as wetlands, catching and treating domestic wastewater naturally to prevent contamination of groundwater, rivers and soil.

YEARLY TRASH PICK-UP

In July, FOO will again host the annual community beach clean-up!  With the support of many Osa community members, we will pick up trash along the sea turtle nesting beaches from Piro to Peje Perro lagoon, as well as along the beaches and mangroves of Puerto Jiménez. Look out for posts and pictures from this amazing yearly event.

SEA TURTLE EDUCATION
In the months of October and November, FOO will be hosting sea turtle education workshops at Independence School and Academic College in La Palma. Look out for posts and pictures from these upcoming events.

Sea Turtles, Volunteers and Visitors

We're Excited to Announce Registration for Our 2011 Sea Turtle Conservation Program!

Sea Turtles have been around for over 100 million years, but all over the world their survival is being threatened. Volunteers are crucial to protect the sea turtles during their nesting season.

Our program conserves and protects 10 miles of sea turtle nesting beach on the Osa Peninsula—a largely untouched, and amazingly beautiful tropical rainforest located in southwestern Costa Rica. This rewarding program allows you to monitor sea turtle movements, protect hatchlings and learn about sea turtle conservation—all on some of the most incredible beaches in the world, from Matapalo to Carate. Our sea turtle program relies on volunteer support to increase our presence on these beaches and help reduce poaching pressure. Spaces are available from July through December – please visit our sea turtle volunteer page to sign up, or send this info to people you think may be interested. Volunteering is a great way to experience this unique place while giving back through valuable conservation efforts. Read More »

Environmental Education, Science and Research

The Osa Peninsula: A unique place for research and education

Located in southwestern Costa Rica, the Osa is hailed by many as Costa Rica’s “last frontier” as it remains a largely untouched, remote wilderness. The Osa’s high level of biological diversity coupled with its unique combination of 13 distinct tropical ecosystems have made it a high global conservation priority. With a total area of only 300,000 acres, the Osa is home to 50% of species found in Costa Rica, including many endemic species. When one considers the small size of the Osa, there are few places left on earth that rival its intense biological diversity. It is here one can find the largest intact mangrove ecosystem in Pacific Mesoamerica, the most significant remaining areas of lowland Pacific tropical rainforest, and one of only four tropical fjords on the planet, the Golfo Dulce. These ecosystems, and numerous others, provide habitat that is essential for the Osa’s plentiful wildlife.

Piro Research Center

Tree samples waiting to be process by Greg Asner´s working team, January 2010.

Piro Research Center is our Costa Rican biological field station and has:

  • Three cabins, each with three rooms and a bathroom (total capacity 36)
  • Laboratory/classroom area
  • Reference library
  • Dining hall/common area

Staying here will give you quick access to mature rainforest as well as to the coastal habitat along the Pacific, making this campus ideal for researchers, field biology student groups, and sea turtle volunteers.

Greg Gund Conservation Center

The Greg Gund Conservation Center is an educational campus located on the Cerro Osa property. Here you have the option to stay in the bunk house or on a camping platform; no matter which you choose, you won’t regret the breathtaking view looking west to Corcovado National Park and the Pacific Ocean.

  • Bunkhouse with two bathrooms (total capacity 12-16)

    View for the GGCC

  • Three screened-in platforms (total capacity 12)
  • Dining area
  • Education Center (under construction)

The Cerro Osa property where this campus is located, is a 1,500 acre tract of land that is contiguous with the Piro Research Center property. You can get here either by walking the Cerro Osa trail or by car on the access road. While the Greg Gund Conservation Center isn’t as close to pristine rainforest as the Piro Research Center, the land use history of Cerro Osa makes it an ideal location to study tropical forest regeneration since the forest directly surrounding the campus is recovering plantation.

If you’d like to book a stay with us, or if you have questions about accommodating a group, please visit www.osaconservation.org or email our Station Manager: carlosmonge@osaconservation.org