The final quarter here in Jalova is a very special time of year, as two mutually distinct worlds collide in an explosion of life. The end of the year brings with it both the height of baby turtle emergences from nests that we have spent the last eight months diligently marking and the iridescent colourations of the breeding migrant birds. These two worlds come to Jalova and coexist in harmony, making this quarter truly unique in what can be experienced by volunteers and staff present.
2019 was a record-breaking year here in Jalova. Times were beaten, species lists were enlarged but arguably most importantly we had a record-breaking turtle season. Due to the exertion of our excellent volunteers and through the ever-present support of the GVI Trust we were able to mark more nests, see more total turtles and safely guide more hatchlings back to the sea than ever before in the ten years this base has been collecting data. We saw a total of 18,111 turtle tracks on our beach, guided 5,403 hatchlings and marked 109 nests. These are unprecedented numbers within our comparatively small survey area of three-miles of beach and it really hammers home the unparalleled importance of this national park and the work that we are doing here. Volunteers from all around the world have come to our little strip of paradise and made a real difference over an extended period of time and that more than anything really embodies everything we stand for. The passion and commitment shown by all the wonderful people that have contributed this year was truly inspiring.
The globally significant work that we do here in Jalova coincides strongly with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that are set by the UN. SDG 15, Life on Land, and SDG 16, Life in Water, are both represented by the turtle population here as, by their very nature, they embody the link between earth and sea. The study of these areas, beaches and coastlines, is so vital to the preservation of our future because they are so sensitive and dynamic in their expression of damage. Be this through the waste that washes up on the beaches indicating the health of the oceans or diversity of fauna who traffic the beach indicative of forest health, these areas are sensitive to all. These inter-tidal areas are affected by both land pollution and sea-pollution and by human pressures both on habitats. It is therefore imperative that these areas are focussed on as they are showing us the direct consequences of the health of the planet. It is only through the direct support of the GVI Trust that we are able to continue to work here and provide a cutting-edge location for volunteers to come and express their passion for helping our world. Every single individual through our gates contributes to our global vision and makes a difference in more ways than they could ever know.
Working with these huge aquatic reptiles is not easy. There are two surveys that must occur every day for our data to be comparable and to form a coherent picture of our test area. These two surveys are the morning Nest Check and the nocturnal Night Walk. The crux of Nest Check runs in parallel with the beach itself, as they are both ever-changing and always exciting. Although some of the longest, these can be some of the most rewarding types of surveys as they encompass so many different types of skills that we encourage participants to exhibit while they are here with us. Nests Checks go out every morning from 5.30 during the latter part of the year. As a group this year we completed roughly 750 hours on the beach, which is approximately the same as spending a whole month out there during a year!
This commitment is testament to the quality of volunteers we have had this year, with the vast majority being passionate and exceptional individuals with a passion for helping this national park. This staggering amount of data collection hours would not be possible without the pervasive support of the GVI Trust either. These Nest Checks allow us to monitor one of the most dynamic habitats within the park, indeed the habitat that enabled this area of land to become a park. Every single day something is altered, no Nest Check is the same as the other. Engraved into the sand is the story of the night before, the roads taken by the expecting mothers, shadowed by the member of the Panthera genus that has evolved for millions of years to be the master of stealth. During high turtle season the mighty Jaguar occurs on our beaches in record concentrations, able to coexist with so many of its kin due to the high availability of resources. To witness stories told via prints really helps to invoke the imagination of every participant, bringing us closer to insights into this incredibly ethereal predator.
This being Tortuguero the Turtle project holds a special place in everyone’s heart but it is by no means all that must be accomplished here. This comes sharply into focus during this final quarter as the forest comes alive with kaleidoscopic colourations that wouldn’t look out of place in a Hubble telescope photograph. These extravagant breeding colourations are found on the bird migrants who arrive in Jalova for arguably the most evolutionarily vital part of their lives. This, on top of the turtle hatchlings and Jaguar activity certainly makes for very exciting times here! They flock to our trees in great numbers, happily gobbling up all the year-round available resources in a quick pit-stop on their marathonic journeys. They highly require this quick pit-stop because they have come to the neotropics for arguably the most evolutionarily vital reason; to breed. I guess they wouldn’t come all this way if they didn’t have an important reason. Costa Rica is famed for is Avifauna and just by spending a couple of days here it is not hard to see why.
Even someone who had previously expressed little interest in birds would be blown away by the sheer diversity and abundance of birds. They represent a clear and distinct place within the psyche of the Costa Rican naturalist, or any avifauna enthusiast. Some of them are with you day in and day out, they are your constant companions and you spend every day in their present and they in yours. Then, occasionally, some elusive species graces you with their presence and it drastically improves your day; to be able to witness it and share those rare moments.
So many amazing things happened this year in Jalova and none of it would be possible without the support of the Trust. In order to collect all of this cutting-edge data we need functional and hardy-equipment and electronics do not do as well in the humidity as mosquitoes do. It is the support of the GVI Trust and their generosity that has enabled us to keep on collecting this information and allowed us to keep on providing volunteers from all around the world to come to Jalova and experience so many once-in-a-lifetime moments.
From all of us here at Jalova we want to say thank you to everyone who has contributed and continues to contribute, without you none of this would be possible.
Costa Rica Conservation