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Conservation and Environment in Costa Rica: Monthly Updates

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Conservation in Costa Rica - Monthly Update September 2009

Football field

September has been another hard month in Barra Honda, with the rains coming and going at random times we have been trying to avoid the heavy downpours but still get as much work done as possible.

We have spent a lot of the month, like last month, focusing on maintenance of the trails and other areas of the park. However we made some time to take our new volunteers to the caves around the park. Since we have been forced to stop our Cave restoration project (due to heavy rains making it impossible for the truck to drive to the top of the park) we are not visiting the caves as much as we used to, but we make the effort to visit at least once a month to show the new volunteers and old volunteers the inside of the Terciopelo cave and La Cuevita. During these visits we take time to show the volunteers the geological structures inside the caves and also take time to tell them some of the geological history of the park.


During most of our walks around the park, while we are putting up butterfly traps, sensor cameras, marking trails or other activities, we always aim to show volunteers interesting and beautiful areas of the park as well. In some instances we have even found areas of the park that we didn't even know existed, these areas are then marked, GPS information is taken and we photograph the area to show various formations and relative scales. This information is important for many people in the park, a lot of scientists who visit the area have no previous knowledge of the park itself, so information that we collect is very useful for them to look at before they decide on specific areas to study. This information is also helping us plan where to place new trails next year.

Inside the Cave

Despite the fact that we don't have new trails planned for this year, we were able to get special permission to create a small trail from the main office in a loop of about 300m to the camping area. This trail, although very short, goes through some interesting areas of forest and with the help of park rangers, park guides and of course the volunteers we were able to mark and clear the whole trail in about 2 days. We will be returning to this trail in the coming months to place plastic along the ground (which will prevent plants from growing along it) and then placing gravel along the route to make it aesthetically pleasing.

Once again we have returned to the park's football field, this time to dig a drainage ditch along one side as well as to re-seed the area with professional grade grass. The drainage ditch became necessary because of the heavy downpours of the last few weeks, which were washing down the side of the hill and then along the football field which would have washed most of the new seeds away to a neighbouring field! Although not a huge amount of work, it was tough as the area we were working was in direct sunlight and as the day went on obviously the sun got hotter meaning it took more effort per meter.

Terciopelo cave visit

With the new seed in place it should take a couple of weeks to grow to a sufficient height for its first cut. The process will not end here though, as it takes a few months for the grass to expand and fill in the gaps and we also hope it will eliminate a lot of the weeds that have survived our various attacks! With a little luck we will have a great playing field for this winter (dry season) when we will have to do the final work of the restoration project which will be installing an irrigation system so that we can keep the grass green during the dry season.

As usual we have been working on our Butterfly and Sensor Camera projects, which continue to bring us interesting results. The butterfly project took a big step forward with the purchase of our first display case and our much needed identification books. We have around about 35 different species now mounted in the display case but even with the new identification books we have only been able to identify around half this number. The other species are going to be identified with the help of experts in INBIO, which is Costa Rica's national institute of Biology. We will also begin a new phase of this project next month by manually capturing butterflies around the park.

Trail Clearing

The Sensor Cameras are still taking photos of mammals around the park; although we still have the same amount of species we are beginning to see a pattern in the movement from wet season to dry season. We have been able to establish this pattern with the help of Eduardo, who is a frequent visitor to the park and is studying ecology at one of Costa Rica's biggest Universities. Eduardo has been able to create various maps of the park which show many things from vegetation density to average rainfall, using these maps we have been able to view where the animals should be and successfully placed the cameras and captured some very interesting photos.

Finally we had another visitor to the park, this time it was a small insect eating bat that got lost and came into the class room during a lesson. Unfortunately the bat was then disorientated by the lights and hit one of the fans. Joe, our resident bat expert was in the class at the time and quickly recovered it to take photos and identify it hoping that it would recover from its accident. Sadly the impact was too strong and the bat later died but we have already sent the specimen to INBIO so that it can be stored in Barra Honda's archives.

Richard Munday
Conservation Coordinator
Barra Honda National Park
September 2009

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