Protect Caribbean Rainforest in Costa Rica

Apr 21, 2014

Maintaining Tortuguero National Park Mile Markers

Map of TNP with areas of interest highlighted.
Map of TNP with areas of interest highlighted.

Dear Supporter,

Working along with the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment (MINAE) and the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), GVI Jalova is helping to maintain mile markers that are indispensable for studying the parks nesting sea turtles. These mile markers also assist in GVI Jalova’s Jaguar Predation on Marine Turtle Study.

Running along the beach of Tortuguero National Park are pieces of driftwood standing tall and painted white with black writing. These pieces of driftwood are positioned every eight of a mile (approx. 200m) to provide localization for researchers and park officials. Ranging from mile zero and 2/8 to mile 18, these mile markers are read in order from north to south.

Mile markers are used for studies on marine turtles nesting as well as jaguar predation upon those turtles by jaguars the STC and GVI Jalova. This is also the most efficient way for the rangers of TNP to communicate the exact location of poaching activities.

Nightly patrols during turtle season desperately need these mile markers as electronic equipment such as GPSs have been shown to disturb sea turtles. For this reason sea turtle researchers use these markers to know their locations on the beach at night. For GVI these night surveys cover from mile 18 (Jalova river mouth) until mile 14 (Fig 1). During the morning GVI also uses these markers to monitor the nesting activities of marine turtles. These markers are used in GVI’s Jaguar Predation of Marine Turtles Study to know camera trap locations within a 1/8 of a mile assisting in the retrieval of cameras and the data analysis of the project.

This February staff and volunteers of GVI Jalova replaced 51 mile markers across three miles (15-18) of Tortuguero beach. This activity was conducted over two days and 20 different members of GVI participated in the mile marker maintenance. After a survey that identified the markers that needed maintenance, nine volunteers and four staff members of GVI Jalova Conservation Expedition replaced mile markers between miles 18 and 17 with wooden pieces pre-selected and painted. On the second time, using the whole team, mile markers for the other two miles were replaced.

Hoping that the mile markers will last many seasons, GVI Jalova is proud of making part of the history being involved in the conservation of Tortuguero National Park.

Many thanks for supporting this project.

Renato Saragoça Bruno,

Turtle Project Leader


Feb 4, 2014

Record of the elusive and vulnerable Agami Heron

Dear Supporter, 

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 


Dec 30, 2013

Collaborating to raise awareness for biodiversity week

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


Oct 21, 2013

The Canals of Tortuguero National Park

Dear Supporter,

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.

Many thanks

Sophie Birkett

Charitable Trust manager

Swallow-tailed Kites
Swallow-tailed Kites


Aug 5, 2013

Jaguar Cubs Caught on Film

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.


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Project Leader

Steve Gwenin

Field Director
Exeter, Devon United Kingdom

Where is this project located?

Map of Protect Caribbean Rainforest in Costa Rica