Conservation in Costa Rica Monthly Update November-December 2013
Barra Honda has been involved not only in the first ever bat census in Central America, but also the first at a regional level within Costa Rica. This survey was part of a larger program called “Work Plans and Strategies for the Conservation of Bats in Central America”. Under the supervision of Costa Rican partners; Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico (states of Yucatán and Chiapas) all joined forces for a collective census, the largest ever undertaken in this region. Each individual country had a separate work method best suited to their requirements but this time everybody worked together!
At Barra Honda we performed three days of surveying and captures with the following objectives:
- Record bat species found throughout the region and in neighbouring countries
- Produce data on species distribution and abundance
- Train university students and those interested in the study of bats
- Raise environmental awareness of bats and creating a more positive image for the animal in general
During the activity we used several different sampling techniques in order to record the highest number of species possible. We used mist nets, direct capture traps, roost site searches and ultrasonic recordings to identify species by their calls.
Some of our best findings included Centurio cenex, which is fruit-eating species and very hard to see. This reclusive bat has some very bizarre facial characteristics and little is known about its life history. Lasiurus ega is an insectivore, which flies high in and above the forest canopy hunting for moths and flies. For this reason it is very hard to catch and study and this was a great recording for us. However, the highlight of the survey was the capture of Vampyrum spectrum which is the largest New World bat species. This giant feeds on mice, lizards, smaller bats and many other small vertebrates.
Blue Flag Program in Schools
As part of our environmental awareness program we continue to work in local schools with the aim that at the end of next year (2014) they will rewarded by the Costa Rican government with the Ecological Blue Flag. This award is presented to those schools that demonstrate that they operate in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. Therefore we are working closely with three schools building plant nurseries, installing recycling stations and organic gardens. This is hard work and we hope to have everything in place within six months so that by the end of the year the schools are indeed friendly to the environment and teaching children how to look after the natural world.
Barra Honda by bicycle!
As of this month staff and volunteers have access to bicycles for reaching the local communities when we work on environmental awareness and the Blue Flag scheme. This sends out a great message to the schools as we are reducing our pollution and emissions and also provides some fun as we head out to work.
Scarlet Macaw Protection
Soon we shall be starting our project to protect the chicks of the scarlet macaw (Ara macao) and to date we have found three nests. These birds feed in the Barra Honda National Park but the nests are situated on a private farm outside the park’s boundaries. We arranged a meeting with the farmer and he has granted us permission to enter his land and protect the nests as unfortunately there is a growing trend in poaching of young chicks. This will be an arduous task and once the chicks hatch they must be protected around the clock. This will mean a campsite and a rotation so that we may protect the youngsters 24 hours a day.
That is all for this month and I look forward to bringing you more news next month…
Conservation Manager, Costa Rica