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Conservation and Environment in Costa Rica: Monthly Updates

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Conservation in Costa Rica - Monthly Update June/July 2010

2 week group at waterfall

I'd like to start this update by making a quick apology for not letting you know what we did during June. It has honestly been the busiest time ever here (we have never had so many volunteers). So we have all been super busy!

June was a great month though, we have been doing some amazing work with the volunteers and have really pushed the program up another level thanks to the help of the volunteers, the staff and of course the park itself. We began with something that has been missing for some time in the park which was an organic waste site. We have several nursery gardens (native trees, fruiting trees and we are working on an organic vegetable garden too) where we always try and be 100% organic and something that is surprisingly expensive and hard to get is organic fertilizer.

With the amount of people eating in the park (normally 15 a day, sometimes up to 40-50) we obviously get a lot of waste food, rice, beans, salad and other bits and pieces from all the meals each day) and we used to just throw this food around certain parts of the camp so that the animals could have a little extra food. The solution was quite simple, we cut a small trail from the kitchen, about 50m away into the forest and began digging a large hole in the ground where we could start dumping the waste, we did have to cover the hole to stop animals from falling in and not being able to get back out and of course to stop the hole filling with water but a couple of days of hard work and it was quickly finished.

Dance class

After a month of filling the organic waste site we already know we will need a new one soon enough, but we have also seen that the flies and worms have found a great new home and have started chewing through all the food and turning it into some of the best organic fertilizer I have ever seen so when we come to our planting season again we will have a great place to go to. Yet another simple idea introduced to the park that saves us money and uses everything that we were just throwing away and it's something that any of you can also use at home!

June was actually a very active month in respect to human waste, we were invited by the government agency MINAE (Ministry of Environment and Energy) to Nicoya's first official recycling day, a full day activity with all the volunteers in the main park helping to collect, classify and store rubbish from all over the town. Unfortunately we had some awful weather that day, it literally poured with rain all morning and then into most of the afternoon so it stopped a lot of the local people in Nicoya coming out to help. Costa Ricans very rarely go outside in the rain unless they can really help it. But thanks to our 15 volunteers walking around the town, going into shops, schools, colleges, outside on the street and anywhere else we could, we managed to collect enough rubbish to fill a 20-ton truck, we calculated that around 90% was recyclable with only a few bags being filled with things that are not currently recyclable in Costa Rica. All in all another successful day for conservation and although we didn't make the desired impact on the locals we still had a great day out and met a few great people on the way.

Nicoya recycling day

As I've said many times over the last few months it has been raining A LOT this year, although we don't have any official records from previous years everyone I've spoken to has said that this year has been very very wet, the rains started earlier, they have carried on for longer periods and so far they show no signs of stopping. This means that the parks' water systems fill up with a lot of water so we have a lot of creeks, rivers, waterfalls and pools of water filling the area. A few months ago we stumbled across an amazing point which is very close to the camp, a huge waterfall (about 10m high) which comes down into a natural pool and then bubbles over and down on to another set of waterfalls. We noticed this and immediately had the idea of working a little on this area to provide a new tourist attraction and of course a point where the volunteers could enjoy during the afternoon.

We started out work with really making the trail down to it comfortable and safe; we made it wider, flatter and then placed a layer of small stones on top to keep it drier and less muddy. We then moved down to the waterfall itself, we moved a few rocks around to slow the water escaping from the pool and then began removing a huge accumulation of mud and sand from the pool which made the depth about 1.5m, plenty to sit and relax in! Afterwards we decided the make the trail and the pool even nicer by planting some native plants (Heliconias, ferns and a few species of Orchids) just to give the area even more beauty.

As I'm sure you will all agree the work was completed with perfection and the area has attracted a lot of attention, volunteers visit almost every day and many tourists go down to relax under the water as well.

Waterfall work

Costa Rica, like most Latin American countries is famous for Salsa, Bachata, Cha Cha, Merengue and many other types of Latin music and dance which are part of the culture of the area and in many cases tell an important story from the country's past. Many countries and even different zones within a country have variations in the dance moves, names and even the music itself.

Something that many volunteers have asked in the past has finally been realised thanks to the help of Leslie, a local girl who has been teaching dance to under privileged children for about 5 years and who is now teaching our volunteers (and staff) how to move like Latinos! Leslie is now coming to the park and teaching our volunteers different styles of dance for 2 hours a week which is just about enough for them to get the hang of the basic moves and as time goes on and they receive more classes then they of course they improve their moves.

We have all been very impressed with the way the volunteers have progressed and learnt the moves in such short amounts of time and we have some amazing videos from the end of the classes when we have 10 couples moving in perfect time to the music (ok, so this usually only lasted a few moments but at least we got that far!). We have actually hired Leslie to come and visit us every week from now on so that she can provide this service to every volunteer who wants to learn something new and different from the area and this money is helping her to continue her lessons to other children who aren't as lucky as the rest of us.

July has been the busiest month ever for us here at Barra Honda and in fact Costa Rica in general. We have been growing quickly as a project and have reached a new record both here in the park and in Liberia!

Every year during July and August we have a special summer program called a 2-Week Special, where volunteers have the choice of spending one week with us here in the park and then one week doing care in Liberia or spending two weeks with us at conservation. This year we mainly had volunteers splitting their time over the two projects which gives us a slightly different program than usual, with such a large park and so many important and amazing sites to see. We go and visit the caves, we visit the waterfalls and we visit the Tempisque river. We do also get these volunteers into some hardcore work too, putting up the cameras and butterfly traps, doing the bat project, clearing trails, reforestation work and some community work in the local villages.

We had some amazing people with us over the two groups this year, we had some great times with them and they have really made an impact on the park and on us as people so we would of course like to say thank you to all of the 30 or so 2 week volunteers that have been with us over the last few weeks and like always to every other volunteer that has come to visit us, we can't do the things we do without you!

Back to a small sense of normality from now on, so I will be sending out my next update in a few weeks time!

See you all then,

Richard Munday
Conservation Coordinator
Barra Honda National Park
June/July 2010

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