Friday, May 13, 2011

Tapir posing

On Friday 29th April I got to experience something truly special, a rare sighting of a magnificent creature! Me (Jonathan), Dave H, Sonja, Trent, Tina and Michelle were scheduled to survey Sierpe Viejo a remote, narrow canal which is now disused. The canal is rich in bird species, the over hanging vines, fallen trees and mixture of exotic bird calls is a dream in itself, absorbing the atmosphere produced by a diverse ecosystem. It is easily my favorite canal survey route as we have to push our way through thick reed beds to reach the canal.

The canoe is kept at the ranger’s station, we collect it and transport it on a large motorized boat taking the Caño Negro canal. While on route, winding through a snaking river system sandwiched between dense tropical rainforest, we noticed a Sunbittern to our right. We slowed to take a look and to hear its call as they aren’t commonly seen. (Tina decided its call sounded like a lost child calling for its mum). We soon moved onwards, however before we could get up to speed on our left underneath the overhanging trees I spotted a large animal splashing water around.

I quickly pointed and shouted ‘Check that out!’ not being 100% sure as to what I had spotted. Sonja who was driving the boat began to slow, at first everyone thought I was looking at the Boat Billed Heron (still a pretty cool bird) in the tree. Suddenly Sonja realized exactly what it was, she quickly put the boat into reverse and shouted ‘OMG it’s a Tapir!’ (see photo)

We were all so excited because none of us had ever seen a Tapir before and we knew how rare it was to even get a glimpse. All I could do was sit and take in the experience, bewildered that I had the privilege to watch such a beautiful, majestic animal in its natural habitat. It was using the water to drink and cool off, it didn’t seem bothered by our presence as we moved closer to get a better view. Its features became clear, a cute snout with short legs, little ears and a rounded body.

It then decided to walk back into the jungle. As we all turned to look at each other, we could see the amazement in each other’s eyes and a cheshire grin on our faces. However the Tapir hadn’t finished yet, it gave us a final parting gift by swimming gracefully across the canal. I was surprised at the ease in which it swam considering its short legs and hoofed feet, its head bobbing up and down in the water.

It wasn’t until afterwards that I found out this was only the second sighting in 5 years to occur and the first sighting at GVI Jalova with picture and video evidence!! This is an experience I, and everyone who was lucky enough to be there with me, will never forget. Coming to Costa Rica to take on a 6 month internship with GVI is by far the best thing I have ever done and I look forward to taking on whatever the rainforest has to throw at me next!

GVI Jalova the place to be!

Jonathan Moore