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Conservation and Environment in Costa Rica: Monthly Updates

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Conservation in Costa Rica - Monthly Update May 2010

Mystery animal

The crazy weather is still with us here in Barra Honda but now we know that it's here we have adapted our routine slightly so that we aren't getting soaked every 5 minutes.

Over the last 6 months (but in reality only since the rains started a couple of months ago) we have had a huge 50cm of rain which has filled all the small rivers and creeks around the park and helped everything grow creating more work for us! It really is amazing walking around here at this time of the year, most of the time the water in the rivers is crystal clear so we have our very own paradise with waterfalls, streams, creeks and small rapids babbling around the area, on a quiet night we can even hear the water streaming past from the kitchen area!

The change in weather has meant that we taken on a few other jobs that are indoors so we don't get wet all the time or get too disrupted by the rains. One of these jobs has been helping out with many of the local schools. At this time of the year many of the schools like to re-paint the buildings, making them look very clean and shiny for the students and the usual government visits at this time of the year.

We began with a Kindergarten school in Santa Ana; Where Meicel (our cook) was actually director before she joined us. Being such a small building we managed to get it painted in about 4 hours but that wasn't the end of our work there.

One of the other tasks that they wanted was a replica of our organic vegetable garden (which is already getting attention). So we set to work clearing a small area, digging the soil and bringing in high nutrient organic soil from another area, creating the lines and then with help from some of the kids that turned up to see what we were doing we began planting the seeds as well. We hope to drop in again soon to see how it's all dong and hopefully see some of the first shoots coming through!

Santa ana school

The second school was Barra Honda again, which after our great paint job on the outside of the building we went back to paint the inside as well as cut the grass around the buildings. The school in Barra Honda is much bigger than the Kindergarten in Santa Ana so we needed everyone together in different rooms painting over two days. One of the great things about this type of work is the fact that we can help people directly as well as indirectly and although painting a school doesn't sound like a glamorous job it's something that helps give the park and of course Projects Abroad positive feedback and gives us ways to expose the volunteers we have to local people and culture.

Our own vegetable garden has now been planted and organically protected from lizards and other creatures and in only a few weeks we already have the first plants coming through. Although we are not running this project at full scale yet we have still planted a selection of all the plants we want to test on full scale, tomato, vinegar, cucumber, sweet and spicy chili and a few other species to fill in the gaps. A lot of these are fairly slow growers, so we have had to place them into a nursery bed first which is protected by a fierce variety of spiky branches and vines!

We aim to provide a full working model that people can use in their homes, schools and colleges so that not only can they cut their own expenses but they should be able to grow fresher, healthier, organic fruits and vegetables for their families and possibly even for sale.

Our investigation projects have been pushing forward during this wet weather as well, with another record in our butterfly project being smashed. Last month I told you all that we had an amazing 200 butterflies in one week, this month we have quadrupled that number with a massive 800 in one session!

Vegetable garden

Virtually all of the individuals caught were the same though, Smirna blomfildia datis, which is one of the most common butterfly species we have inside the park at this time and although not an amazing species we can safely say that this is one of the strongest times of the year for them as they are virtually all young, vibrant individuals. We were lucky enough to capture a couple of new species at this time as well and thankfully it wasn't raining at all this time round so nobody minded too much!

We have also had a great month with the sensor cameras. We normally capture a lot of deer, coati and agouti on the cameras, so whenever we get something different from these it's quite exciting. This month was no exception with a couple of great photos of spotted skunks and a mystery animal. I've included the photo of the mystery animal to see if anyone out there can give us any ideas and as you can see it's not a great picture but going on the visible characteristics we can say that its big (at least 1.5m long) light brown and pretty quick.

There are many theories going around the camp as to what it could be, some say two animals breeding, some a Tayra and some of us are going for something more amazing...a Puma, but it's unlikely we will ever decide 100% because of the bad quality of this particular photo.

One of the biggest jobs at this time of the year is clearing all the trails that we have in the park, keeping them open so we can access all the areas that we need too. With all the rain it makes it a little harder to do this job because everything is growing so quickly, so we need to be clearing the trails every few weeks. With the many trails in the park it makes it a little hard to keep up at times! It's a fun job though, clearing a trail doesn't sound like something that could be described as fun but it's certainly satisfying to see how it was and how we leave it afterwards and of course we get to walk slowly through the forest working along the various creeks and the wildlife that there is in the park; monkeys above us, birds flying by us and the occasional snake and lizard that crawls past us on their way to a safer area.

After almost two years of work we actually have the football field nearly finished! Thanks to all this rain the grass has started growing very quickly which is actually a good thing as its growing faster than all the weeds and blocking the light from them and also because the grass is starting to fill in all the gaps that have been left. This does mean that we will have to keep going back to cut the grass and soon we will put a few more boxes of seed over the worse areas to help it out a little more. We are very confident that in a few months time though we will have the main body of work done here and will only have to go back every now and then to cut it and do some small maintenance jobs.

Like every month I've only been able to tell you about a few of the things we have been doing here in the park as there is simply too much going on to tell you everything! June is already shaping up to be a very special month as we have our new biologist coming to work with us and we have a few important things coming online for mid year!

News of these events will follow soon!

Richard Munday
Conservation Coordinator
Barra Honda National Park
May 2010

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