Science and Research

Notes From the Field: Terciopelo

While the Osa Peninsula, rich with biodiversity and sheer beauty, is a wonderful place to kick back and relax, there are numerous opportunities for visitors to catch a glimpse of some of the world’s most fascinating reptiles. Some of which, like the Terciopelo, can be especially hard (and dangerous) to spot.

The Terciopelo is a beautiful dark grey, brown or olive green snake, with a dorsal pattern of triangular designs on both sides of its body, resembling a letter ‘X’ visible from above. It’s a large snake that can grow up to 250 cm (over eight feet!) in length, although the average adult is between 140 and 180 cm (4.6 to 5.9 ft) long. The females are much longer than the males.

It principally eats small mammals and birds. The species is viviparous, which means that the embryos grow inside of the mother and are born fully formed. Furthermore, the snake is very fruitful; it can give birth to up to 90 offspring. This high fertility explains in part why the Terciopelo is one of the most abundant snakes in Costa Rica.

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Marine Conservation, Science and Research

Osa Conservation Supports Research in Golfo Dulce: Drawing Conclusions

Mogos Islands mark the highest waters of Golfo Dulce.

By Brooke Bessesen

While Jorge and I both loved working on the water, the results of our research brought the greatest rewards. Golfo Dulce is a true bio-gem—one of Costa Rica’s preeminent riches. Several hundred Green sea turtles, critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles, Olive Ridley sea turtles and (reportedly) Pacific Leatherback sea turtles, rest, feed, mate and nest in the gulf. A rare xanthic colony of pelagic sea snakes resides around the inner basin. Both Northern and Southern Hemisphere Humpback whales enter the inlet to give birth and possibly provide sanctuary for young calves. Whale sharks aggregate in Golfo Dulce. Resident dolphins and other toothed cetaceans breed and raise offspring. Scalloped hammerhead sharks are born there and needlefish spawn. What a remarkably vibrant bionetwork!

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Community Outreach, Marine Conservation

Arrested Development: Osa residents debate marina project in community forums

Panelists discuss the environmental impacts of the proposed marina project at a community forum

By Andrea Johnson

For the last two weekends, hundreds of people from Puerto Jimenez and surrounding towns have crowded together into small hot rooms for hours on end to engage in heated discussions about a very important current affair that is getting people talking in the Osa Peninsula. And there’s not a soccer ball in sight.

The events are a series of community forums revolving around a proposed development project. Five hour long public forums; democracy can be painful.

The project in question is a marina and mega resort-style complex that the owners of Crocodile Bay Resort, an all-inclusive sport-fishing resort in town, want to build out into the waters off the town’s public beach. This would be the first marina to be built on the Osa Peninsula or in the Golfo Dulce, a globally unique marine ecosystem.

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Community Outreach, Marine Conservation

Save the Gulfo Dulce: A firsthand account

Luis Daniel Montero is a kayak tour guide and a local activist

Luis Daniel Montero is a 22-year-old kayak tour guide and volunteer for ASCONA (Asociacion De Servicio Comunitario Nacional y Ambiental), a local non-governmental organization dedicated to community service and environmental conservation on the Osa Peninsula.

Along with a few other ASCONA volunteers, Daniel, as he prefers to be called, is part of an extremely passionate group of activists protesting an American business-owner’s proposal for a large marina development project on the Gulfo Dulce, a proposal met with considerable opposition among Osa residents and various conservationists on and around the peninsula.
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Birds, Environmental Education

Conserving the Scarlet Macaw

As part of conservation efforts for the Scarlet Macaw, artificial nests have been installed in two colleges and five schools. In each school, trees with easy visibility were chosen for students based on  characteristics of diameter and height for the installation of the nests.

Students of these schools attended a workshop on ecology, life cycles and the importance of conservation of the species Ara macao. Students from the 5th, 6th, and 9th grades are in charge of monitoring macaw activities and noting events such as flights and perching near the nests and when a macaw investigates the inside of a nest. They also monitor the activity of other species near the nest.

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Sea Turtles

Our Trip to Pejeperro Beach: Patrolling for turtles

Osa Conservation staff taking a break during patrol training

This week, we had the pleasure of conducting our first Osa Conservation staff training for sea turtle patrols. The event was very productive for everyone, reinforcing knowledge for some, and training others for the first time.

For me, the most interesting part of it all was the fieldwork, where for the first time this season, all of the land conservation staff, volunteers, Max, Manuel Sánchez, and myself (a total of 13 people) conducted a turtle patrol of Pejeperro Beach. We left the Piro Biological Station at 7:30 pm with our flashlights and our fieldwork equipment, and after we walked all the way to sector 10, we encountered our first nesting turtle that was just beginning to excavate her nest. While she was digging, Manuel demonstrated to us the data collection process, including tagging turtles, marking tracks, performing basic health assessments, and other things. After making these techniques clear to everyone, we were eager to perform the tasks ourselves.

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Marine Conservation, Science and Research

Osa Conservation Supports Research in Golfo Dulce: More Species, More Understanding

By Brooke Bessesen

The name “Brown pelican” belies the attractive hues of a mature bird.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise that during our 400+ hours of observation in Golfo Dulce, Jorge and I witnessed an astonishing array of marine life. Indeed, we were astounded by the intense biodiversity revealed to us during our research. In addition to the animals I’ve already blogged about in this series, many more are worth mentioning. Some were officially documented, others were not, but all helped define our emerging portrait of Golfo Dulce.

Brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) are commonly seen in Golfo Dulce and we located a year-round communal roosting area along the banks of Piedras Blancas National Park in the upper half of Golfo Dulce. We saw many other marine birds, too, including Brown boobies, magnificent frigates, osprey, several species of gulls, terns, swallows, herons, ibis and dozens more wading and estuary birds.

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Sea Turtles

Turtle Patrol: Searching the Osa beaches for sea turtles

By Jamie Cone

Photo: Claudio Giovenzana

An anticipatory rumble of thunder sounds far away, off shore. It has an almost calming sound as we make our way through the dark squishy forest path, the sky patterned with silhouettes of tree leaves. The jungle is alive with night sounds, from the echoing song of the nightjar to the almost space-invader beep of frogs on Las Rocas trail. A silky white two-toed sloth is spotted, high up in a tree, taking the night off. I envy its slow slumber for just a moment before I remember that this trail is taking me down to the beach, down to witness a spectacular and sacred event, one that only a few people in the world have the chance to be a part of. Tonight, I am walking a stretch of beach along which nesting mother sea turtles will, with great care and diligence, lay their precious eggs in the sand.

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Miscellaneous

Osa Travel: More than just holes in the road

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!

Mamon Chino (Photo: Mario Melendez)

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.

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Miscellaneous

Mango Time! A story of natural and human history

By Andrea Johnson

A mango tree in the Osa

Mango season arrived for Osa Conservation in June. The trees at Greg Gund Conservation Center have been dropping their luscious fruits for several weeks now in a display of bounty almost reckless to those of us from northern climes who grew up with scarce and pricey supermarket exemplars.

Sometimes the mangoes drop unprompted, perhaps with a light push from the breeze. Often they fall half-eaten and accompanied by a telltale rustle of leaves as white-faced capuchins (Cebus capuchinus) take their pick of the crop, or flocks of red-lored parrots (Amazona autumnalis) and chestnut-mandibled toucans (Ramphastos swainsonii) descend for another feast. Best for those of us consigned to wait below, every new rainstorm (for the rainy season has arrived as well) also brings a rain of whole, perfect fruits.

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