Sunday, October 16, 2011

GVI Scientific Achievements

The GVI Costa Rica expedition relocated to a remote spot at the southern end of Tortuguero National Park at the beginning of 2010. I was privileged enough to have been a part of this expedition throughout this pioneering year and would like to just take a moment to talk about what GVI have been able to achieve and are continuing to work towards.

Tortuguero is justifiably famous for its globally important numbers of endangered marine turtles and GVI has been working with the Sea Turtle Conservancy for many years to help with the monitoring program of these amazing creatures (reports from this program can be found on the Sea Turtle Conservancy website - GVI have also been carrying out gruelling 15 mile ‘Jag-walks’ (the very name sends a shiver along the spine!) along the length of Tortuguero Beach each week to assess the extent of jaguar predation on the nesting turtles. This phenomenon, though not completely unique to Tortuguero National Park, is to my knowledge not being recorded and monitored to this degree anywhere else. A publication of these findings is due to be published soon (more details to come in the future) and should make essential reading for anyone who underwent the massive physical challenge involved.

Tortuguero also comprises of a significant terrestrial environment of winding canals and dense tropical forest and to put into context, other than at the northern end of the National Park in the immediate vicinity of the town of Tortuguero itself, the vast majority of it is inaccessible and unknown. GVI were given the opportunity to base themselves at the southern end of the National Park, just north of the Rio Jalova river mouth. The base camp was the site of a former farm (which still operates on a small scale as a coconut plantation and with the infamous herd of cows) and is a prime location for study of this area, having easy access to the beach, the river mouth, the open plantation and different sub-habitats within the surrounding tropical forest. Though obviously humans have been present in the area for many years, nobody has ever conducted any biological research here (to my knowledge). For a passionate field biologist such as myself, it was a paradise teeming with wildlife. During 2010, the staff and volunteers of the expedition spent many long hours in the field, recording and identifying species of animals in the area, conducting canoe-based surveys of the waterways and collecting information on the elusive mammalian residents of the area using track evidence and camera-traps. Not only did this provide expedition members with hundreds of memorable encounters with wildlife but also resulted in a staggering amount of data collected. Reports summarising and discussing all of this will soon be available but to summarise a few key facts:

· 373 species of mammal, bird, reptile and amphibian were recorded during 2010.

· 62 canal bird surveys were carried out collecting over 2000 records to provide a baseline set of data for continuing monitoring of these areas.

· 265 records were made of mammal tracks and sightings along the Juana Lopez Trail.

And this is just the beginning. GVI continues to record sightings and carry out surveys, whilst also expanding its projects wherever possible. As regular readers of the blog no doubt already know, the GVI camera trapping project is going from strength to strength and providing unparalleled insight into the mammalian fauna of the area, and providing the first data regarding numbers of individual jaguars in this area of the Park. I eagerly await further developments from this project.

Jonathan Groom - Ex-Field Staff

Look out for Jon's next post in a few days, highlighting the information that GVI has provided to the Ornithological Association of Costa Rica.