Protect Caribbean Rainforest in Costa Rica

by Global Vision International Charitable Trust
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Putting up camera traps
Putting up camera traps

Dear Supporters, 

August is a busy month here in Jalova, especially for the Jag Team. During this time of year, we are at the peak of the green sea turtle nesting season, which also coincides with the peak data collection season for our jaguar research.

With turtles on the beach, the jaguars are close behind. Marine turtles are a valuable and favorable resource for the jaguars living on the coasts of Costa Rica. With a high amount of food around, the jaguar population can thrive. The healthy jaguar population in Tortuguero National Park is keeping the Jag Team very busy this month.

With surveys daily looking for fresh predations on the beach and new sites to set up our remote camera traps the data is piling up. We have already surpassed the number of predations recorded last year; a tribute to the healthy jaguar population and protection of the park but also to the outstanding Jalova team for their diligence and accuracy in finding fresh predations and putting in the miles along the coast looking for signs of carcasses.

The theme of this month can be best described as Saving lives and breaking records! The lives saved are those of the animals living in the national park as staff and awesome volunteers come together day and night to collect valuable data to help better understand and protect these species. We also run into the more practical lifesaving skills, such as when we find female turtles wedged under logs or hatchlings burning up in the hot Caribbean sun.

The records broken are those of the most predations in a three-month phase by jaguars on marine turtles ever recorded. Our famous hard-core conservation survey ‘Jag Walk’ has proven no problem for the volunteers and staff this year. Once a week an elite team of five walk the coastline for 15-miles in the ridiculous weather of the Caribbean searching for turtle carcasses. This month we have set the record for most turtle kills worked in a survey- 44 carcasses and seven long hours later, the Jag Team has something to be proud about.

It’s never our goal to actually see jaguars in the wild, our focus lies more on the importance of capturing camera trap footage of them in a natural state with no human influence. We do this in two ways: one by putting cameras on trails to help us identify individuals in the park and second by putting cameras up on fresh kills hoping for a return and a chance to capture footage of feeding and social behavior.

With lots of turtles this season there have been many opportunities to set up “kill cams” capturing absolutely stunning images and extremely enlightening footage of the secret life of these so-called solitary cats. The data collected this year and the efficiency of the Jalova team is some of the best in years. With great support from our partners at Coastal Jaguar Conservation and with breathtaking videos of this amazing species almost daily, we think that this is one of the most exciting projects GVI has!

Thanks for your continued support!

With Gratitude, 

GVI Costa Rica

Fresh jag-prints on the beach
Fresh jag-prints on the beach
Baby Green Turtles making their way to the sea!
Baby Green Turtles making their way to the sea!

Dear Supporters, 

The beach at Tortuguero where we are based has been a nesting point for Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Loggerhead turtles for centuries. After  a long period of turtle exploitation for meat, the economy at Tortuguero has switched from being poaching-based to a more sustainable eco-tourism base, turning poaching into a highly illegal  activity.

It is wonderful to start seeing more and more turtles coming to the beach to nest each year and it is always an exciting time of year for us!

Night Walks

In  order  to assess the efficiency of this conservation effort in protecting the populations of the turtles nesting at Tortuguero National Park, in partnership with the Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), GVI Jalova conducts night surveys termed as ‘night walks’ in order to record any and all turtle sightings as they come up on the beach to lay their eggs.

During night walks, volunteers walk on the beach in order locate these turtles and tag them with a unique number so that the information may be added to the ever-growing database. If a turtle is spotted digging her egg chamber and eggs can be counted, staff and volunteers will triangulate the nest so that hatching success may be calculated. Volunteers get to participate in a unique experience by having the chance to count the eggs that are laid by the turtle themselves. With the beginning of June came the start of the Green turtle season which will be monitored for number of nests and hatching success all through June to November.

What we've seen so far

Thanks to the contributions of the volunteers at the GVI Jalova base, 2 Green,  2 Hawksbill, and 2 Leatherback turtle nests have been marked already this season. We were also able to do triangulation and eggs were counted in order to further monitor the hatching success. We were also very excited to discover that 3 individuals from each of the three species observed were marked with new tags and added to the database!

Thank you for your continuous support of this project!

With Gratitude, 

GVI Costa Rica

Dirty work here in Jalova!
Dirty work here in Jalova!

Dear Supporters, 

The Jaguar Project has been a major project undertaken in Jalova since 2005 and we have been collecting data regarding Jaguar population trends, social and feeding behaviors, amongst other things, since then.

Since 2012 GVI has been partnered with Coastal Jaguar Conservation (CJC). This month Stephanny and Ian from the CJC team visited our Jalova base to re-train existing staff members and train up new staff members with new protocol and procedures, to ensure good undertaking of the research.

Setting up camera traps

Our Jaguar Project team members, Grant and Stephanie, were able to spend time with Steph and Ian, setting up both trail cameras and semi-permanent cameras on predated sea turtles. They were able to capture footage of jaguars, ocelots, tapirs, armadillos, and a variety of birds and other small mammals on the trail cameras.

Five individual jaguars were able to be identified using stills from the footage, showing one dominant male, one resident female, and three cubs. They were also fortunate enough to capture two cubs feeding on a leatherback turtle carcass that had washed up on the beach. With cubs getting older and feeding off fresh kills, it makes viewing the footage and identification that much more enjoyable knowing the new jags are living healthy lives and increasing the size of our local jag population.

The JagWalk

This month also saw the first of the ‘JagWalk’ survey, which was completed successfully by a team of our interns, who were able to obtain data on one fresh kill. The survey team were fortunate enough to observe ocelot tracks, one fresh green turtle kill, a washed up leatherback carcass, and collect fresh jaguar scat. The new batch of volunteers and interns also underwent their training and are ready to collect data on jaguar and turtle presence along the14.5 miles of the beach that we monitor.

Scat Samples

The team has been lucky enough to find multiple scat samples this month, which will be analyzed for genetics as well as diet. Working through scat samples is the dirty work behind the jaguar project, but it is essential in understanding what this species is consuming in our area. Analyzing scat can tell us what the jaguars are hunting and consuming, and also how often they are consuming them. It is also helpful to know what species they are consuming outside of the turtle season that helps them survive in the low resource months.

The other half of the scat analysis is genetics, from which we can identify individual jaguars through DNA. This helps us create a database on the resident population of jaguars that use the coastal habitat, as well as quantify the genetic variability between individuals as we know that gene flow is essential for the survival of any species.

With the leatherback season arriving and green turtle season just around the corner, excitement levels of our Jag Team and the jaguars themselves is elevating. Fresh tracks are found every morning on the beach, which is an indicator for our team that some amazing behavior is about to begin and we are eager to gain footage and knowledge of these events.

We look forward to bringing you news on our findings on the interaction between the jaguars and the turtles as we go into nesting season. 

With Gratitude, 

GVI Costa Rica

Taking samples of jag prints in the sand
Taking samples of jag prints in the sand

Links:

Welcome to Jalova!
Welcome to Jalova!

Dear Supporter, 

We are really excited for 2016! We have so many plans for upgrades and improvements in Tortuguero. 

Here is what we have planned. 

There is a massive initiative to improve the signage in Tortuguero National Park and we were happy to get involved and donate money to this project. Signs that will be erected by the rangers will help to formalise things like speed limits on the roads, list all of the prohibited and restricted activities in area and give warnings about poaching and hunting. Once the signs have been made, the rangers will put them up in key areas. We look forward to sharing

Once the signs have been made, the rangers will put them up in key areas. We look forward to sharing news with you on how this will help the park!

We have also managed to buy research equipment for our partners at the Costal Jaguar Conservation, thanks to your donations. The equipment includes cameras, chargers and SD cards so that animal interactions and sightings can be better recorded. There was also enough funding to get field books that are weather proof so that we can take notes even if it is raining as well as some padlocks that we needed for their camera trap boxes. 

Another exciting development is the upgrades that we are going to be making to our base. We are raising money for the GVI-CT Transitioning to Low Carbon Operations fund so that we can make sure that our base, in this pristine rain forest, has as little human impact as possible. We have already ordered our first 2 solar panels and battery packs and have plans to build biogardens to lessen the harmful effects of run-off water seeping into the sand. We will also be instaling rainwater tanks. 

We are very excited about what is in store for this project in 2016 and hope you are too!

With Gratitude, 

GVI Costa Rica

Links:

Dear Supporter, 

This month the staff at the GVI Jalova Biological Research Station had the opportunity to present information and data collected over the past year to the Costa Rican park rangers stationed in Tortuguero National Park. 

Over a two days the rangers were given presentations about objectives of the projects run at Jalova and information on our most recent findings.

Day one included presentations on the work that GVI volunteers carry out, including new species sightings and a monitoring study of biodiversity in the region, including turtle nesting, canal birds, spider monkeys and jaguars.

The park rangers, who are employed by the Ministry of Environment and Energy, patrol the park on a rotational basis. They have excellent knowledge of the park as a whole but have little experience with the scientific or research side- most rangers specialize in protection or tourist education.

Our aim with the presentations was to further build our partnership with the park, by involving and engaging the rangers in our research, continuing ongoing communications and to present new project ideas and encourage discussions about how to move forward. The presentations were a success and achieved their aims.  As a result, GVI Jalova has received a list of species and potential new projects that MINAE are interested in and has begun discussions on how to support MINAE and the park in achieving their research goals. This is something that everyone involved is excited about as it means we have some new and exciting ideas on the horizon for the Jalova research station. 

The jaguar presentation held on the second day was presented by our partners at Jaguar Conservation on the North-Eastern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica. Those in attendance included the MINAE Rangers at the Tortuguero Station as well as some of the GVI staff and volunteers who had just completed the ‘Jagwalk’ survey, a 14.5 mile walk aimed to assess the jaguar population, habitat use and predation trends of jaguars on marine turtles along the coastal habitat of the Tortuguero National Park.

The main objectives of the project are to determine jaguar population trends; assess the abundance of jaguar prey species and document the social and feeding behaviours of jaguars in relation to their predation on marine turtles within the coastal habitat. This is accomplished through the use of camera traps – using both permanent and semi-permanent stations – and surveying jaguar predation on marine turtles via the aforementioned Jagwalk survey. 

During the presentation, we were re-introduced to these objectives as well as the interesting statistical analysis, completed with the aid of the data collected by GVI Jalova. These included jaguar interactions, the abundance of prey species at the different permanent stations, types of social behaviours seen around a predated turtle (aggression, sharing) and the activity of various jaguars at the various permanent stations.   This along with the photographic and video evidence of jaguar behaviours made for a very informative and interesting presentation. 

Presentations like these are a great way to check in, share knowledge and decide on how best to move forward. We are so looking forward to seeing what 2016 has in store for us. 

Thank you for your ongoing support!

With Gratitude, 

GVI Costa Rica

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Global Vision International Charitable Trust

Location: Exeter, Devon - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.gvi.org
Project Leader:
Kate Robey
Exeter, Devon United Kingdom

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