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.
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.
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.
GVI Costa Rica
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!
GVI Costa Rica
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!
GVI Costa Rica
In 2012 GVI entered into partnership with Panthera Costa Rica and independent researcher Stephanny Arroyo-Arce to further develop its existing ‘Jaguar Project’. Started in 2005 to monitor the jaguars of Tortuguero National Park and their predator-prey interaction with marine turtles, this project has documented several unique behaviour previously unrecorded for this species.
Using specialised camera-trapping systems designed to capture high-resolution images, Sebastian spent two weeks at GVI’s Jalova Research Station working with staff and representatives of Conservación del Jaguar en el Noreste Caribeño de Costa Rica, the project founded by Stephanny Arroyo-Arce, and past GVI Jaguar Project Manager, Ian Thomson. The objectives were to install custom camera traps on sites of predation events to document the jaguar population of Tortuguero feeding activities on species of marine turtle.
Camera trapping is an invaluable tool available to scientist and the general public allowing them to document species without the need to capture animals, or disturb them through direct observation. When conducted correctly, this method of observation can be considered one of the least invasive, providing incredibly accurate data that can be reviewed and interpreted multiple times. Today’s modern camera traps are remotely activated cameras, based around passive infrared (PIR) system. These systems are able to take pictures and videos 24 hours a day.
During Sebastian’s visit, he brought three of these systems to Jalova, and over the course of his two week stay installed them on two trail locations as well as five instances of turtle predation by jaguars. We are happy to announce that with the support of GVI and Conservación del Jaguar en el Noreste Caribeño de Costa Rica he was able to fulfil his assignment for Panthera and captured several striking images of this cryptic species before returning to the United States.
We wish Sebastian all the best and recommend you check out his web site Puma Pix to see all the excellent work he has done to promote wildcat conservations (also the amazing pictures he has) and look forward to Panthera publishing the images from Jalova in the future.
GVI Costa Rica
Turtle nesting season has started and we are working hard to gather essential data.
GVI conducts research on marine turtles that nest in the southern end of Tortuguero National Park (TNP). The research takes places in two stages, night patrols and daily nest checks on a 3.5 mile stretch of beach starting at the Jalova river mouth.
TNP is a nesting area for leatherback turtles, an IUCN endangered species, from approximately March – June each year. Occasionally hawksbill and loggerhead turtles are also encountered laying eggs here. GVI volunteers have had the opportunity to observe and study many of these beautiful, giant animals during the current leatherback season.
Different from other marine turtle species, leatherback turtles do not have a hard carapace- commonly known as the “shell”. Istead, they have a mosaic of small bones covered by thick skin. Their size varies from 130cm to 183cm, however the largest ever recorded was over 3meters long! Their weight can range from 300kg to 500kg. The incubation period of a leatherback turtle is around 65 days, and you can find approximately 80 eggs per nest.
As leatherbacks are the largest of the sea turtles, and one of the most endangered, patrolling their nesting beaches tagging, measure & monitor (which is called “working” a turtle) is an important research activity to be able to record presence and the history of leatherbacks. All data collected by GVI and our volunteers goes to our partner organization, Sea Turtle Conservancy (STC), to be compiled with their data and produce reports for the national park, the Costa Rica Ministry of Environment, the scientific community and the general public, on the state of turtles and nesting in TNP. It also contributes to the worldwide body of knowledge on marine turtles and nesting.
Night patrols at Jalova are conducted from 8pm to 1am. Our objective is to collect data on sea turtles coming ashore to lay eggs. As part of the protocol designed by our partners at the STC, turtles are tagged for individual identification, and biometric data, for example, carapace length is measured and recorded. Our volunteer research assistants work alongside GVI staff to collect this information throughout the night.
We have also done a marathon night patrol covering Jalova to Tortuguero Town, a 15 mile stretch taking 7 hours on foot. After every one of these night patrols, a nest check patrol went out the following morning to oversee the state of all the nest that have been marked during the season, and that are being monitor to determinate the stage and conditions of the nests. All this data gives us information on the survival rates of the nests and the hatchlings, and also gives us a better understanding overall of our beach and our turtles.
For the first period of 2015 leatherback season, from April to mid May, GVI has worked 37 leatherback turtles and marked 19 leatherbacks nests, as well as 1 hawksbill nest. That means that so far this year, GVI has worked and marked more leatherback sea turtles than last year’s total count for the season.
We thank you for your continued support, without your generous donations research such as this would not be possible.
GVI Costa Rica
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