On Sunday morning we set off for Jungla del Jaguar on the Osa Peninsula. To get there we went on a boat trip through a mangrove forest where saw an enormous diversity of wildlife. A portion of the list includes flighting scarlet macaws, a mother and chick great potoo, iguanas, a baby crocodile, blue and green herons, fiddler crabs, spotted sandpipers, a lineated woodpecker, parakeets, capuchins, an egret and brown boobies. On our boat trip we passed the Isla del Caño which we snorkelled at on our penultimate day. We arrived on the beach by our accommodation and were immediately struck by the tropical paradise we were going to be staying in for the next few days. Similarly this location was unlike any we had seen yet in Costa Rica, furthermore demonstrating the immense biogeographic spectrum of the country. Following lunch we had a class discussion about how range shifts are occurring due to climate change and then a walk on the trails. In the evening we examined the bat species that had been caught in mist nets set up in the jungle. We had the awesome opportunity to see a Riparian myotis, Chestnut short tailed bat, Thomas fruit eating bat, Sea bass short tailed bat and a Jamaican fruit bat up close. We spent the rest of the evening preparing our project presentations and analysing the data we had collected from Monteverde. It was also Ben’s birthday so we had a cake to celebrate!
The next morning there was bird netting followed by our project presentations. An impressive effort was made by everyone into the talks, accompanying posters and questions raised. After lunch there was a jungle hike and people went snorkelling. We then had a class talk on the causes and consequences of migration followed by a night walk looking for tapirs, which sadly had wandered off by the time we got the their favourite plantation.
On our final day in the Osa we had a boat trip and spent the morning snorkelling around Isla del Caño, a biological reserve about 20km off the peninsula. We saw hawksbill and green turtles, a whitetip reef shark, sting rays and lots of tropical fish. Despite copious suncream application many of us who forgot to wear a T-shirt ended up rather sunburnt! After lunch there was a hike and our final class discussion on strategies for terrestrial conservation where we kept being interrupted by screaming capuchins on the trees behind us fighting over a coconut! We spent the evening undertaking a stakeholder debate about the situation and options Costa Rica was faced with the area before it declared the island as a National Park, for example there was the argument to build a resort on the island.
On Wednesday we departed for San Jose, stopping for lunch at La Georgina Restaurant which is famous for its avian biodiversity. It was a long bus journey back to the capital and we ended the day with a group dinner where we looked through pictures from the trip and analysed camera footage. Between Monteverde and Jungla del Jaguar the species we saw included agouti, peccaries, jaguarundi, tapirs and the rare margay.
Costa Rica translated means rich coast and was mistakenly named so by Spanish colonials who believed the land to be abundant in precious metals. However, Costa Rica is certainly rich in terms of the biodiversity present. It has majorly progressive environmental policies, with 26% of its land area being a system of National Parks and Reserves and 98% of energy being renewable. We have been so fortunate in our opportunity to explore the tropical ecology of this environment and understand the strategies undertaken to manage it. Whilst it has imperfections, Costa Rica is certainly far ahead of most of the world in the sustainable approaches adopted. It has given us a lot to think about what we can each do personally to reduce our carbon footprints. Nevertheless, I think the take away message for most of us though is not to eat pineapple. Most of us had no idea how damaging the practice is until seeing the numerous plantations and learning how much more detrimental it is to the Costa Rican environment than palm oil harvesting.
blr211 January 19th, 2020 Costa Rica