Tortuguero National Park is known for its great biodiversity of birds. Waterbirds found in and around the National Park are not only major tourist attractions, but they are also important bioindicators to evaluate biodiversity, health and quality of the ecosystem, due to their distribution and different specializations.
Jalova Canal Birds Biodiversity Assessment focus mainly on 30 target species chosen in conjunction with our partner MINAE. However, some of these target species are more elusive and rarer than others. The agami heron (Agamia agami) is an example. This is one of the least known herons and is a species of particular interest in Tortuguero National Park. In 1988 it was classified as near threatened by IUCN and in 2009 as least concern. It is currently listed as vulnerable and has an unknown population trend. It is rare throughout its range with little published information available about feeding ecology, nesting behavior and density.
Due to its low density and nocturnal habits, this heron was seen only few times by GVI. Thus, to discover more about this animal, GVI staff organized a nocturnal bird survey. Every month, since August 2013, GVI canal bird project leader organizes nocturnal bird excursions for volunteers, hoping to get more sightings and information on this species. On December 2013, GVI finally got 2 sighting of this bird at the Caño Negro canal.
Volunteer and staff were thrilled with the sight of such rare species. As it can be a good bioindicator of ecosystem quality for Tortuguero National Park, we wish to continue the nocturnal surveys, in order to gain more information on the behavior, distribution and ecology of this species. Besides, nocturnal surveys per se provide a lot of excitement and fun for both volunteers and staff, as the canals can look different from day to night.
I hope you are as excited by this as we are. We look forward to bringing you more news in the future.
All the best
GVI Costa Rica Tortuguero
El Equipo de Jalova les desea una muy Feliz Navidad y un muy Próspero Año Nuevo!
What a 2014!
We started the year studying our healthy population of spider monkeys. We discovered the the next generation of jaguars in Tortuguero following the exciting discovery of Eliana with two small cubs. And we've been involved in plenty of community intiatives to spread the word about conservation!
One of these happened just last month. In order to reinforce our relationship with our partner Organizations Sea Turtle Conservancy and Panthera, and to increase our involvement with local community in Tortuguero, GVI Jalova was invited to participate in Biodiversity Week. The event took place in Tortuguero village, from 18th to 23rd of November, and it was aimed at tourists and tour guides from the area to increase the knowledge of the biodiversity within Tortuguero National Park.
The presentations given involved a variety of topics, including general and bird biodiversity, jaguar conservation, sea turtle conservation, and manatee biology and conservation. GVI Jalova participated with three presentations. The activities started with a workshop for the local school children about jaguar camera traps.
The children were taught how camera traps work, why they are important and how to identify individual jaguars by their particular rosette patterns. Later on, GVI staff prepared a presentation about the biodiversity projects carried out in Jalova, and the results we have up to now. Afterwards, Stephany Arroyo, our link to Panthera organization, presented her research on jaguar camera traps, distribution, and predation of marine turtles in Tortuguero National Park.
The presentations were attended by tourists, tour guides and the local community.
The following day, GVI staff was invited to a recycling workshop organized by STC, where children from 6-12 years old were shown how to make handcrafts with recycled material, such as newspapers and plastic bottles.
Thank you for supporting GVI Jalova in 2013. This project is highly valuable as it is responsible for valuable scientific work assessing the biodiversity of Tortuguero’s forests and canals. However, we also feel that strengthening relationships within the local community is an essential step towards sustainable conservation. This event, together with others that already took place in the last month are only the beginning steps in the direction of further integration with the local communities surrounding Tortuguero National Park. We are excited to keep up with this community involvement and eager to continue future projects in the area thank to your support.
Wishing you a happy new year
Marcelle Muniz Barreto, Field Staff
The canals that run within Tortuguero National Park are one of the main tourist attractions of this area. They not only offer a peaceful and tranquil method of transport around and through the park, but also provide some of the most impressive bird-spotting opportunities in the area.
Since 2011, GVI has been conducting surveys of the canals surrounding Jalova Base. Consistent monitoring occurring over a two year period has enabled us to get a good overall insight into the populations of important species that reside on the canals. Recent analysis has shown that both the density and diversity of the birds using the canals has increased over the last two years. Importantly, we found that the canal with most boat traffic, Caño Negro, showed significantly less diversity than the other canals.
These results were presented to MINAE (Costa Rican Ministry for Environment) in an End of Year Report in July, which signalled the completion of the project as it stood. However, incidental monitoring of the canals has continued, with great success. In recent weeks we have had sightings of many species whose population trends are either unknown or decreasing according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It began on our closest and busiest canal, Caño Negro. At the beginning of the month, a Boat-billed Heron (population trend unknown) was spotted, which has not been recorded by GVI since March this year. Following that, an American Pygmy Kingfisher was sighted. This is the rarest kingfisher in the area and it population is currently listed as decreasing.
A trip to a more distant canal, Central, gave us the pleasure of finding both a Limpkin and a Least Bittern. Although listed as Least Concern with a stable population trend, both of these birds are rarely sighted around the Jalova area, these viewings being only the third and second this year, respectively. On our canal incidentals, however, we are not just searching for canal birds. We record all avifauna observed, including an impressive Black-collared Hawk that made an appearance on our survey of Central.
More recently, a group of volunteers were treated to an amazing sighting of Swallow-tailed Kites. Over forty of them had congregated for the long migration south from North America. Riding the thermals, gliding ever upwards, this was one of the most spectacular scenes witnessed by many of the group during their time here. To top of this incredible visage, on the return journey to base we saw many American Crocodiles, a few Spectacled Caiman and got our first sighting of Bottle-nosed Dolphins this year.
These recent experiences show that the canals of Tortuguero National Park provide an exciting and diverse environment, not only for monitoring avifauna, but also many other species. The canals are vitally important for maintaining the impressive diversity of this area, and continued monitoring should help us to further demonstrate this importance, and offer advice as to how this amazing habitat can be preserved.
Thank you for supporting and donating to our work. If you would like to volunteer with us on this project also, please do feel free to get in touch.
Charitable Trust manager
The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas and the third largest cat in the world. They are classified by the IUCN as Near Threatened and in Costa Rica they are considered to be highly threatened. The main threats facing jaguars today are habitat loss and fragmentation, decreases in prey numbers and hunting of individuals that prey on livestock. In Tortuguero National Park there is a perceived conflict with the jaguar population predating marine turtles, and the population here has come under scrutiny because of this.
GVI have been running a camera trapping program in the Jalova region of TNP (Tortuguero National Park) since 2011, during which time 18 individual jaguars have been identified. The main aims of the project are to establish population estimates and to study the behaviour of the jaguars, particularly in relation to predation on marine turtles, in order to better understand this unusual situation and to analyse what, if any, management actions should be taken. Along with permanent stations along the forest trail adjacent to the beach, camera traps are often set on freshly predated turtle carcasses in order to capture jaguars when they return to feed. We have caught some extraordinary behaviour on film this year, from two adult males feeding together at a Leatherback carcass to a fight between an adult female and a young male at a green carcass.
The most recent success was possibly the most exciting footage so far. The cameras were set on the fresh carcass of a green turtle, just over two miles from Jalova base. The footage showed one of our female jaguars, Eliana, feeding with two small cubs. There are several minutes of footage of the cubs; not only feeding but also playing, calling and practicing their hunting skills on an unfortunate marine toad.
Whilst the footage of the cubs is adorable to watch, it is also very significant in terms of the studies being carried out here in Tortuguero. The more that can be learnt about the behaviour of the jaguars and their reliance on marine turtles as a food source the better it will be for taking any management decisions regarding the local jaguar population. There has been a slightly sensationalist attitude towards the perceived threat of the jaguars towards the marine turtle population, and to some, the news of more jaguars in the park may not be welcome, but the cubs represent a new generation of jaguars and, for a species classified as near threatened, any new additions to the population can only be a good thing.
Last month, the GVI projects celebrated Earth Day along with the rest of the world! Tortuguero National Park boasts a stretch of coastline that is the second biggest rookery for nesting Green Turtles in the world; the most important nesting beach in the Western hemisphere. Each year, hundreds of turtles including Hawksbills, Loggerheads and giant Leatherbacks, make nests on our sandy shores.
Soon the eggs begin to hatch. Turtle hatchlings, upon climbing out of their egg chambers, face a number of natural dangers. Once through the breakers and into the sea they face a multitude of predators, and as they mature they face fishing nets and hunters. However, long before this on our beach they must contend with vultures, crabs, raccoons, coatis and poachers just to name a few.
It seemed fitting that as part of Earth Day we would do a litter pick to make their lives a little easier. We removed a large quantity of litter that had washed up on the beach via the rivers that run through the area and a strong rip tide that brings debris to shore. This assortment of plastic and glass is a danger to turtles and hatchlings that may mistakenly eat it or even be prevented from getting to the sea by it.
Over two days in what seemed like the hottest weather in months, teams walked a three mile stretch of beach collecting bottles, shoes, and even old gas canisters and refrigerators. The first day yielded eleven 15lb bags and a soda bottle from Jamaica! The second day yielded eighteen 30lb bags that were removed with the aid of a quad bike and trailer. A total of 705lb or 320 kilos was collected; a joint effort between us and the park rangers from the Ministry for the Environment. The project could not have been achieved without their help. It was an incredibly hard day, but well worth it as it has made the beach a safer place for the little reptiles.
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