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Conservation and Environment in Costa Rica: Monthly Updates

Project Overview Additional Project Info Monthly Updates

Conservation in Costa Rica - Monthly Update – July and August 2013

Costa Rica

Before bringing you up to date on our ongoing work here in Costa Rica, I would like to provide some basic information on our project site. The Barra Honda National Park (PNBH) is located in the Canton of Nicoya, Guanacaste Province, about 22km northeast of the city of Nicoya.

It was created in 1974 to protect an interesting cave system. The fauna is characterised by a high diversity and abundance of bats with some colonies that may exceed several thousand individuals (Artavia. 2011). The protected area is characterised by calcareous soils with steep and irregular topography. The highest peaks are just over 500m in the Cerro Corralillo with lower troughs a little less than 100m in other areas.

Barra Honda National Park is an interesting ecological niche, known as tropical wet forest in transition to dry forest. However changes in the global climate, coupled with logging on site years ago, means that much of this protected wilderness area looks very similar to the features characteristic to a tropical dry forest.

Butterfly project

Butterfly in Costa Rica

The general aim of this project is to record the order of insects Lepidoptera. At present we are focusing on diurnal species in the waterfall section (“Las Cascadas”) of the Barra Honda National Park. We hope to process our findings considering incorporating variables, such as weather conditions and different habitat types.

In Barra Honda National Park we have been collecting this data for two years. This site is a large protected area and we have identified around 70 species using two capture techniques. The first involves using high traps and a system pioneered by Van Someren, where rotting fruit is placed as bait. The second is manual capture with nets. Some species of Lepidoptera are known to occasionally disappear only to return to the area many years later and, for this reason, we must continue with the inventory in the protected area.

In order to broaden our research we have decided to evaluate other areas of the park, these sites are the Cascades and Inns. This year we established research plots in these areas, which possess slightly different habitats compared to those observed in Barra Honda. It will be interesting to see the results and to investigate whether we discover species not found in the first study area. Such results would enable us to perform habitat comparisons and site specific species.

We used 12 fixed traps placed at heights of 2.4 and 6 meters in every corner of the plots, i.e. 3 traps per corner. We attempted to identify every capture on site but new registers and difficult individuals were taken back to camp for further study. New species are then added to our ongoing list. Each individual collected is placed in paper packets for good preservation, with a label indicating the collection site, date, collector's name and a comment. Once in the office, the specimen is placed in a refrigerator for 24 hours and then be prepared on foam sheets using entomological pins and scraps of paper.



Animal and human feces contain methanogenic Archaebacteria that decompose organic material without oxygen. Storing feces in a bio-digester allows the use of the decomposition by capturing the gases produced to generate green energy for various uses; for example cooking, lighting and feeding combustion engines that produce electric energy.

This new practice is considered by many to be the technology of the future, as its implementation has already improved the quality of life of numerous families and industries, this by using costless and natural products – allowing a considerable economic gain whilst helping in the protection of the environment.

In Barra Honda National Park, Projects Abroad is implementing this technology. During this month we received important materials to be used in the construction of a bio-digester. Volunteers and staff members have started the construction of the bio-digester and are hoping to finish it by the end of November 2013. In February 2014 we are hoping to be able to produce and use the resultant gases.

Bat Project


This is one of our longest standing projects at Barra Honda and the principal aim is to identify and monitor the species of the order Chiroptera. We hope to establish a database to understand the status of bat populations in the Barra Honda National Park.

The importance of the Barra Honda National Park for the conservation of bats is well documented. There are bat colonies numbering in their thousands on site which roost in different caves, primarily in the caves "Pozo Hediendo" and "Nicoa ". Some bats are able to build their own shelter using the leaves of different plants and these are very important species in the Barra Honda ecosystem.

We have set up mist net transects around the park and each study site uses 8 nets which are 12m long and open to a height of 2m.

Below is a list of bats found so far during this study:s

Scientific Name Common (local) Name English Name Family
Saccopteryx bilineata Murciélago listado Two-lined Bat Emballonuridae
Noctilio albiventris Murciélago pescador Lesser Bulldog Bat Noctilidae
Pteronotus davyi Murciélago de Davi Lesser Naked-Backed Bat Mormoopidae
Pteronotus parnelli Murciélago de Parnell Mustached Bat Mormoopidae
Fam. Phyllostomidae
Subfam. Phyllostominae
Glyphonycteris silvestris Murciélago silvestre Tricolored Bat Phyllostominae
Micronycteris brachyiotis Murciélago de orejas cortas Yellow-Throated Bat Phyllostominae
Micronycteris mirgalotis Phyllostominae
Phyllostomus discolor Murciélago careto Pale Spear-Nosed Bat Phyllostominae
Phyllostomus hastatus Murciélago punta de lanza Big Spear Nosed Bat Phyllostominae
Tonatia brasiliense Murciélago punta de lanza Big Spear Nosed Bat Phyllostominae
Tracops cirrhosus Phyllostominae
Vampyrum spectrum Vampiro falso False Vampire Bat Phyllostominae
Subfam. Glossophaginae
Glossophaga leachii Murcélago de Leach Gray´s Long-Tongued Bat Glossophaginae
Glossophaga soricina Murciélago musaraña Pallas Long-Tongued Bat Glossophaginae
Subfam. Carollinae
Carollia perspicillata Carolia transparente Seba´s Short-Tailed Bat Carollinae
Carollia subruga Carolia parda Gray Short-Tailed Bat Carollinae
Subfam. Stenodermatinae
Artibeus jamaiquensis Artibeo jamaiquino Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat Stenodermatinae
Artibeus lituratus Artibeo correcto Big Fruit-Eating Bat Stenodermatinae
Sturnira lilium Esturnira blanca Little Yellow-Shouldered Bat Stenodermatinae
Subfam. Desmodontinae
Diphylla ecaudata Vampiro chingo Hairy-Legged Vampire Bat Desmodontinae
Desmodus rotundus Vampiro común Common Vampire Bat Desmodontinae

Bird Project

I am pleased to announce a new initiative at Barra Honda, the bird project. This has been set up principally by Oscar Cubero (staff member) who wrote the proposal and got government approval. The papers were provided by MINAET (environmental office in Costa Rica) and we got all the permission for this.

The project is designed to help us ascertain the abundance of resident and migratory birds in the Barra Honda National Park. This will then lead to data on their conservation status in the area. We plan to utilise standard data collection techniques for avian censuses which will include fixed-point observations, walks and song recognition. We hope to determine the presence of migratory species in the national park and determine how long they stay in the area.

Conservation in Costa Rica

Five zones will be established for the study and fixed points will be designated every 250m for bird identification. We will use trails, fire protection lines and roads as transect routes to avoid cutting down new areas of the park. These five sites are:

  • La Palma-El Pozo-Frijoleras (eight points).
  • Main Trail (eight points).
  • Laureles Trail (eight points).
  • Fire line-Ceibo trail-Mantequilla (eight points).
  • Ojoche Cave-Pozo hediondo Cave (six points).

The count time at each point is five minutes after an initial minute to allow the birds a chance to accept the presence of observers. Monitoring hours in the morning will begin at 5:30am and in the afternoon at 3:30pm. Each session will utilise eight fixed point studies and the project will run throughout the year. Apart from compiling an extensive bird list for the area we hope to observe the presence of migratory species that arrive every year to the national park and determine how long they are on this site.

For species that fly over the canopy or feed high up in the trees we will use a different strategy. High lookout points will be established in different places around the park where a clear view of the canopy is provided. Such locations include Nacaome View point, El Frío, Frijoleras de El Flor y Las Delicias.

Counts have been made in two three-hour sessions, the first beginning at 7:00 and ending at 10:00, the second from 10:00 to 13:00. Birds were counted in 10 minute intervals during the three hours of sampling. In addition we collect data on weather variables, temperature and wind speed. We aim to collect data once a fortnight in each lookout location. This is the beginning of this project and in the future we hope to produce a "Field Guide: The Birds of Barra Honda National Park".

Tree Seeds and Nursery Garden

In this project we have selected 10 tree species present in the Barra Honda National Park. These include: Cedrela salvadorensis (sweet cedar) Cedrela odorata (cedar), Dalbergia retusa (Cocobolo) Swientenia macropylla (Mahogany) and Astronium graveolens (Ron Ron). We aim to cultivate seedlings of these species for reforestation and our goals is to plant 3000 trees during the rainy season in the both the park and surrounding communities.

Environmental Education Programme

Environmental Education

We are working in three different schools around the National Park. Work in this programme consists of providing necessary materials to give classes to children. Volunteers work hard to get everything ready and then a member of staff, headed by Jose Mario Gonzalez, explains the topic of the month (biodiversity, pollution etc) to the children. As you can see we are very busy here in Costa Rica and I look forward to bringing you more news next time…

Anthony Ruiz
Conservation Manager, Costa Rica

Management Plan, Data & Reports

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