I think it’s time I filled you all in on exactly what I’m doing out here in the Jungle!
Frontier is a government conservation group that operates in various places of the world, such as Madagascar and Costa Rica, working with the local community to do important research into the environment and the animals that live there. In Costa Rica, our work focuses on 5 main animal groups; Turtles, Primates, Birds, Macaws and Amphibians + Reptiles. The Turtle conservation work is a huge part of what we do out here, and there are 2 other Turtle groups that operate on Carate alongside us. We also have the largest population of Scarlet Macaws in Costa Rica, so this is an important part of the research too.
Each week, a schedule of trails is randomly selected for each animal group. There are 3 or 4 each day, plus Turtles which happens every morning on the beach. The trails involve walking along a particular trail through the jungle, looking out for whichever animal we are recording. For instance, Primates of Shady last week involved trying to spot the 4 types of Monkeys native to Costa Rica while hurtling at high speed down a very steep slope…(if you haven’t read that one, you really should). As I said, Turtles happens every morning, and this involves excavating the nests that should have hatched by now in order to count the number of empty eggs/predated eggs/etc. Together with the other Turtle groups, we work to cover and count the nests laid by mother turtles at night, in the hope that we can reduce the number of nest that are predated by dogs, etc, or perhaps poached – a serious problem in many countries and especially here, where Turtle eggs are sent to the Western world to exotic pet shops, or eaten as a delicacy.
The data we collect on each trail involves things like species type, number, activity (e.g. foraging or travelling), weather, distance from trail, and more. This is all recorded into the data log and sent to London HQ. Last week, the Research Officers were writing their quarterly reports, which is an analysis of the data collected from the past few months , noting trends and general animal activity.
Some of the trails are right next to Camp, and the furthest one away is a solid hour and a half trek. The trails themselves are 1km, and it depends on the animal as to how far you walk. For instance, birds only happens in one place along the trail, where we walk to that point and sit for 20 minutes or so, ready to count the birds that we hear in the dawn chorus.
I signed up for the Media and Conservation Internship here, so as well as helping out on the trails and with general camp life, I am getting involved in running the social media pages such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well organising and sometimes writing the 2 weekly blogs that are sent to London HQ to put on their general Frontier Blog. Last week I was also editing and translating the monthly newsletter that circulates in the local community, updating people on the work of Frontier here. As part of all this, I’ve had my camera out a lot to get some pictures for the social media, but unfortunately I’m finding that my lense is not always powerful enough to see into the trees!
In between trails, we have some spare time most days to do as we wish. This mostly involves reading and napping for me, and I’ve already read 5 books in 2 weeks! After introducing Banagrams and Bohnanza to some of the other volunteers, there has been a LOT of game-playing too. Yesterday evening we went and played volleyball on the beach, which was so much fun, made that little bit more special by the stunning setting sun behind us. Although the days seem long, the weeks are passing so quickly. We get up with the sun at about 4 or 5, depending what you’re doing, and by about 8 pm everyone is ready for bed! Normal life may take a little adjusting too when I return to civilisation, but for now, I’m enjoying life and looking forward to the next 5 weeks. One slight unforeseen issue is that I didn’t realise that seem to have come to Costa Rica in the most rainy months – last year September and October were the wettest months. For now, the weather is holding, and we’ve had sun just about every morning this week. It clouds over around midday, but so far the rain is holding.
This weekend I’m heading into Puerto Jimenez will 5 other volunteers for a Whale Watching Tour, which promises to be a great day as it is currently mating season for Humpback Whales, so there are lots about. After 3 weeks in the Jungle, I’m also secretly looking forward to a little luxury in the form of air conditioning and a proper bed – even if it’s just for 2 nights! Next week is going to be a lot quieter on camp, as 4 of the volunteers are leaving on Monday, so it will just be 2 volunteers and 4 leaders – which means a LOT more work for us to make sure all the surveys are covered!
Stay tuned for more adventures!