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Conservation and Environment in Costa Rica: Monthly Updates

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Conservation in Costa Rica - Monthly Update August 2010

Fixing the road

August was another busy month for us here in Costa Rica with another big group of volunteers staying with us for half the month. With lots of work to do in general we kept everyone very busy!

A few months ago Eduardo, our Biologist, joined our team here in Barra Honda and quickly set to work organising all the data we had collected and setting everything straight with our 3 main investigations, he also began identifying more projects we could set up in the near future and extensions of current projects. After a couple of weeks he gave me a detailed list of about 30 new projects that we need to start in the park and the preferred order that we should do them.

We selected two new projects for the moment, which are extensions of our current investigation projects, things that are designed to give us more detailed information on the areas we are working on and that will help us understand why we have the results we do. The first of these projects is called a habitat description project, the basic idea of this project is that when we place the cameras, butterfly traps or mist nets in any area we need to know what is there that is either attracting or not attracting the wildlife, so we go in to these areas and start looking for nests, water, fruiting trees, flowers, animal trails, animal tracks and many other things.

All of this information has a certain value and with some calculations you can the work out a predicted wildlife abundance for a certain area which we then compare with the results we have gathered to see if they are the same, if they are different then we have to go back to the area and monitor it again and try to see if we can find what is attracting or disturbing the wildlife from that area so we can either protect it better or make changes to it to help bring the wildlife back to the area.

Football field

The second new project is an extension of the bat identification project. One of the main thoughts about the bat populations in Barra Honda is that they live in the many caves and rock formations we have in the area, this is true in most cases but we have also captured many species of bats that are known to live outside of the caves. The new project is a Bat Nest Location project, we are going out to areas around the park, mainly around the areas we have been doing the bat project in the past, and trying to locate as many of the bat nests that we can, these can be found under leaves, in trees, under rocks and a few other locations as well.

With this information we are able to better understand the movement of bat populations around the park and it will be very useful to us in the future, we plan on expanding our project slightly next year to focus mainly on capturing as many individuals as possible and marking them all so we can begin to locate nesting sites, flight paths and feeding grounds so we can be sure that these areas are protected as well as possible.

One of our biggest community related projects over the last two years has been working on the park's recreation area (football field) and restoring it to usable conditions, we started this project about two years ago and have finally got to the finishing point, we only need to do a couple of small things in the dry season, flatten it out a little and repair a small area where the water is running through part of the field. The idea of this project is to provide a free area for people to use inside the park's grounds for kids just playing a quick game to full on organised games with other parks and communities in the area.

As you can see in the photo provided and if you look back through a few other reports you can see the contrast in quality, the ground is now covered in grass and has a very small percentage of weeds and other things that we need to get rid of. We hope that when the weather starts to dry out again we can organise the first official use of the field, we have the vision of having the next world cup here but I don't think that's going to work, so a Costa Rica National Park Championship might be the next best thing!

Habitat description project

The weather over the last few weeks here in the south west of Costa Rica has been absolutely awful, although I'm sure some of you have worse climates in your home countries for us we think it's awful when the temperature is below 25C and it rains for more than a couple of hours a day.

August has been the wettest month of the year so far and it's looking like it's going to be worse next month too, we get a lot of rain here from tropical depressions in the Pacific and Caribbean oceans which as some of you may know have been a lot stronger and more regular than normal this year. Luckily we live on a hill so we have no risk of flooding but it does mean that we have to do a lot more maintenance work on the roads and trails in the park than normal.

The main problems that we face are that that with the amount of rain and the force that the water gathers on its downhill journey to the bottom of the hill it drags with it a lot of sand, stones and dirt which get stuck along various parts of the trail and create blockages which divert the water on to the main part of the trail and destroy the trail itself.

The main tasks that we have been concentrating on are clearing the drainage channels along the trails and then on a few points we have had to dig out the whole road and re-build it with a rock base to help deal with drainage problems in really wet areas. These jobs have been really hard work for everyone, but the difference it has made is very impressive, two areas in particular which were basically one meter deep mud pits are now among the best parts of the trail in the whole park! That's how good we are!

Richard Munday
Conservation Coordinator
Barra Honda National Park
August 2010

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