As our project progresses we are still encountering more species and it seems to be that number 13 is a lucky number. Camera number 13 had some startup problems, but when functioning properly started to produce the gems. Maybe you remember the Margay (Leopardus wiedii) that was calmly preening itself at about 7,5m. height in the tree. Last week this camera produced a video of the elusive and endangered Central American Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi). The last time these monkeys have been spotted on campus was about three years ago. As the Spider Monkey is known to not be able to survive outside of large tracts of primary forest, the presence of this species on campus is a beautiful testament to the conservation efforts here at UGA Costa Rica. Another very good indicator of a healthy ecosystem is the presence of top predators like the Puma (Puma concolor), an animal that promotes species richness in an area. Therefore we are very happy to also catch these beauties on our cameras.
Besides these success stories there is also a major setback in out project (which is the reason I was not able to publish the video of the Spider Monkeys): last week the external hard drive that is used to download the data from the camera traps fell out of a tree. And of course this had to be one of the highest trees that we are climbing. That week of recovering data was fraught with bad luck, from cameras that were affected by ant nests and had to be replaced, to the dropping of batteries that had to be searched for on the forest floor, and of course (as icing on the cake) the hard drive that was destroyed. As it was two months before that a backup of the data had been made, we are at risk of losing two months of video and a little more of data input. This is an essential problem for the core of the project: as we are aiming to collect your round data, this could result in having to start the year anew from April onward. Although I don’t mind spending more time at this beautiful location, there are many costs associated with this issue.
And even if we are able to recover the data, the process of recovery is not cheap and will at least set the project back $600,-. Therefore we need your help more than ever to be able to bring this beautiful project to a successful end.
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Last week we had the honor to receive the Tropical Ecology Field Studies class from Mission College (Santa Clara, California) on our campus. This class showed a keen interest in participating in research projects on campus and it so happened to be that our project was the chosen one. As I am an educator at heart, I was very glad to be able to put my project to good use for educational purposes.
To accommodate the needs of the Mission College group I prepared a four hour workshop which entailed an introduction to the project, data input, analysis and a final discussion. For the data input I filtered out some interesting videos for the students and drastically reduced the amount of non-target stimuli videos. As we had limited time to review said videos, I didn’t want them to spend most of it watching branches move in the wind. Besides, I wanted to show the possibilities of camera trapping in detecting uncommon species and behaviors.
The students in the Tropical Ecology Field Studies class came well prepared and I was happily surprised by their enthusiasm. Their professor, Jean Replicon, had them prepare a syllabus in which the students compiled information about the campus, the T.A.C.T. project and the mammals that could be encountered on campus. Right of the bat the students had very interesting questions and remarks concerning the project. During data input they showed an unprecedented enthusiasm and willingness to work. Many of them were not willing to finish before reviewing all the videos given and had to be dragged away from their computers for the next activity.
After a short time of data analysis, where I gave the students access to my full database, they came up with some beautiful ideas and results. The discussion that followed was very inspiring.
To top it all off, the students of this class joined forces in gathering a very generous donation for the project. I want to thank Jean and her students for reigniting my enthusiasm for the project, inspiring me with new ideas and their generous donation.
It was another exciting week on the project. This week we had Ahora Films (www.ahorafilms.com) on location to do some filming of activities and research projects on campus. The TACT project was of course included and we climbed one of our beautiful strangler figs to get some drone footage. Besides, we were very lucky to have a couple of Mantled Howler Monkeys just a few trees over to complete the picture. I am really looking forward to the finished work by my friend Eduardo Solanos.
At the beginning of this week we also had a community meeting with SINAC and Panthera about their UACFel (Unidad de Atención Conflictos con Felinos) program. This program is educating rural communities about the cohabitation with large cats like Jaguar and Puma. They try to reduce the conflicts between these cats and farmers through research, education and implementation of solutions to minimize incidents.
They were really happy to hear about our camera trapping project and my willingness to share the data on the large cats. Another milestone in the project as this can be considered our first service to the community. In the future we are hoping to expend this community service effort by educational projects at local schools.
Although the drone footage of the project will need a lot of editing before it is released, I can already show you guys some cool footage that we retrieved from the camera traps this week: we got some awesome shots of a Margay (Leopardus wiedii) at 7.5 meters up in a tree. This guy was up at the same spot for about fifteen minutes and returned a few days later for an encore of about ten minutes.
I was over the moon when I saw this footage. Every time I leave the arboreal camera traps I tend to joke to them by saying: “Go get me a cat in the tree.” Having this wish fulfilled is another little milestone in the project.
And we’ve been surprised at the amount of videos acquired within about a week and a half.
After a full week of hard work installing cameras at different heights in the forest we were able to collect the first pilot results this week. Although having this many cameras in a relatively small area gave us the expectation of a good amount of results in a short time, we could have never asked for so many animals caught on video. Ranging from White-Throated Capuchin Monkeys to Tamanduas and various Margays, these results showed us the presence of both common and threatened species in the area.
See here a compilation of some of the animals caught on tape:
As a preliminary step to my upcoming research project, aiming to document wildlife at different heights in the premontane wet forest of Monteverde, I have installed my first arboreal camera trap today. Although the camera is not located on the research site, it was exciting nonetheless.
Two weeks ago I took one of my colleagues out to show her some treeclimbing. We walked past one of the local coffee farmers, when I decided that the tree I spotted there would be a good first climb for her. The coffee farmer, named Oldemar, is an acquaintance as we lead coffee tours on his farm. Therefore I was sure he wouldn’t have any problem with us climbing his tree. After enjoying the sight of our little climbing adventure Oldemar asked me for a favor.
Oldemar told me that when the electricity company installed their power lines along the road they cut many branches that connected the trees on both sides. Since then, he frequently noticed arboreal wildlife, like monkeys and coatis, arriving at the roadside unable to cross. With many free roaming dogs in the community, these animals were reluctant to come to the ground to cross and therefore very often retreated back into the forest on the same side of the road. Oldemar asked me if we could install something up in the tree to facilitate these animals crossing the road. Together we came up with the idea to hoist a big bamboo stalk up there and tie it to the trees on both sides, increasing connectivity through this corridor.
Last weekend our plan became reality and construction of the arboreal wildlife crossing turned out to be even easier than we thought. Right away we decided we should install one of my camera traps to see if we could capture some footage of animals using the crossing. So next day I came back to install the camera, hearing upon arrival that their daughter already had a video of Capuchin Monkeys using the aerial bridge.
Proud as a peacock I raced myself up the tree to install the camera. And now we wait……..