You very quickly become part of the ‘Osa Family’ at Piro. A shared passion for wildlife and a desire to do something that will make a difference, pulls you together like no other experience. I was keen to see, and be part of, as much as I could in the short time I was at Osa and everyone was keen to share their work with me and to spend time with me, explaining all their research or conservation efforts. Knowing I was keen to see as much wildlife as possible meant that many were looking out for species and telling me when they were about!
Danny is studying Spider monkeys and pointed out the endangered Geoffrey’s Spider Monkeys that were around camp. The Geoffrey’s Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) that inhabits the Osa Peninsula has a major role in the forests on the peninsula: these charismatic creatures are both crucial for seed dispersal and also double as health indicators for forests. In the past 45 years, the Geoffroy’s spider monkey has declined by almost 50% and is now listed as endangered. It is vital we learn more about their ecology to prevent further decline. If the spider monkeys do affect the plant community, a conservation strategy could include translating the sleeping tree leaf litter to areas of the rainforest where there are no spider monkeys.
Danny is studying the effect spider monkeys have on the plant community structure for her undergraduate dissertation project at the University of Exeter. Spider monkeys are frugivores, meaning they eat a diet consisting predominantly of fruit. They settle to sleep at specific sleeping sites that also function as latrines, or communal toilets. Danny is studying sleeping sites to understand the effect spider monkeys may have in seed dispersal. Her dedication amazed me! Most of the time I was there, she was up between 3am and 4am to return to the sleeping sites she had identified late the night before. She works incredibly hard and I wish her all the best in her studies!
I was lucky enough to see a small group of these monkeys come into camp. Photography is often difficult due to them begin high in the trees. There is a lack of light in the deep foliage, so I was quite pleased with these images. Their prehensile tail acted like an additional arm and they often hung from their tail, whilst searching for food….
I was also lucky enough to see one of the other species in this area; the Central American Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri oerstedii). These were high in the trees alongside the road when I saw them. Their agility in the trees was incredible as they effortlessly clambered and leapt around in the highest boughs.
Although I heard and saw the howler monkeys, I did not manage a picture; they were far too high in the trees and obscured by foliage.
Another researcher I met was Hilary Brumberg; the coordinator of the Ríos Saludables (Healthy Rivers) program. Newly graduated, Hilary is undertaking some wonderful community projects based around the huge number of rivers that run through the region. Hilary travels around community sites, meeting dedicated conservationists and families who are interested in the effects of agriculture and roads on their neighborhood water source. The community members are given water testing kits and are taught how to examine the river water quality. They examine both what is dissolved in the water (chemistry) and what is alive in the water (biology). They survey the rivers for macroinvertebrates, whose presence indicate the health of the river because they are sensitive to pollution. While chemical monitoring provides a “snapshot” of the water quality at the time of sampling, macroinvertebrates tell a story about what is happening in the stream over a period of time.
Hilary took me and a fellow volunteer, Ethan, down to the river, to show us what her work involved. It was going to be the first time I could get the Olympus TG-5 camera I had been loaned, in the water! I was keen to get some interesting shots and to also provide Hilary with some pictures of her at work, for her presentations. It was a pretty idyllic setting….