Hola from Costa Rica! I have been having an incredible time here so far!
I spent the first two weeks of my internship with Área de Conservation Guanacaste with the wildlife department. I worked with Evelyn, who is the only person who works in the wildlife department. Her job is to respond to alerts about wildlife that is injured or in danger, as well as calls from local people who are having issues with wildlife, such as pumas coming into farms and killing livestock. She also does inspections of animal sanctuaries and wildlife refuges. My first week, we went to pick up a parrot that had been found walking along on the ground (it was clearly domesticated, because it couldn’t fly anymore). The parrot had actually been found near the local jail… so we went to the jail to pick it up (I didn’t actually go into the jail, of course). It was interesting because later on, Evelyn speculated about the possibility of the parrot being used to smuggle drugs to convicts in the jail, just like people sometimes try to do with dogs and with doves. That would be pretty ridiculous if it were true!
One note: Here in Costa Rica, they use the same area for the jail and the prison, whereas in the United States people are detained somewhere else before going to court and then finally being sent to prison.
That same week, I went along with Evelyn while she did an inspection of a butterfly sanctuary. There were so many butterflies there, and also many, many caterpillars that hadn’t yet undergone metamorphosis.
That Friday, we went to two different rescue centers to drop off animals we had been keeping in the office. We went to the first rescue center to drop off an injured baby bird and an injured owl. The second rescue center was a sanctuary dedicated primarily to macaws. However they also take in parrots, parakeets, monkeys, lizards, iguanas, jaguars, sloths, and tapirs (strange-looking animals that are related to horses). All animals in the sanctuary are rescued animals. It was really cool to see the jaguars – there was a young jaguar that had been born in the sanctuary, cuddling with its mother. We had two parrots and seven parakeets to give them (all taken from houses that had them illegally as pets – there is a law against having birds as pets here in Costa Rica, but many people ignore the law).
That weekend, I went on a two-day research trip with Evelyn, her husband (who is doing a research project on bats), the other intern (Sophia, from France), and a few other coworkers. We went to Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, which is a national park within Área de Conservation Guanacaste. We spent the first day walking on the trails and taking surveys of bird species we saw. Then in the afternoon, we set up nets we would be using to catch bats. At night, we periodically checked the nets and removed the bats. Then, we observed them and recorded data on their species, measurements, and unique characteristics. We even saw a mother with her baby clinging to her! That was so cute. My job was to paint each bat’s foot with nail polish – so that if we accidentally caught that bat again, we would know we had already observed it.
The next weekend I had another exciting experience – I went to Bahía Junquillal, a wildlife reserve that has a beautiful beach. I went with Andrea, my coworker who I am living with, another coworker named Jenny, and her kids (18 year old son, and 12 year old / 10 year old daughters). It was so incredibly beautiful at that beach (although I got very sunburnt)!
The water is so WARM here! It makes it so easy to go in the water! I am kind of dreading going back to swimming in the northern Atlantic. :/
I spent the following week at Estación Experimental Forestal Horizontes, which is a station within the organization that revolves around restoration and silviculture (the planting of trees to help restore forests).
Something cool I did that week was assisting a college student with a research project she was doing at the station. I went with her to one of the tree plantations, where we cut out rectangles of bark from the roots and the trunks of trees of the “Caoba” species. The purpose of this was to see if the trees would sprout new branches in order to heal themselves – if it worked, the branches would then be re-planted in order to grow new individual trees, with the overall goal of increasing the population.
This past weekend I had a lot of fun with my time off! Andrea took me to a waterfall (or cataract) on Saturday, which was super awesome.
Then on Sunday, she took me to Playa Panama, a beach we had actually visited my first weekend here when we did a bit of beach-hopping. That water was the warmest ocean water I’ve EVER felt!!! It was cool enough that it was refreshing to go in, but it wasn’t the least bit difficult to adjust to the temperature of the water!
Most of the times I’ve gone to the beach here, we’ve ended up meeting local people in the water and having pretty long conversations with them. People here are generally very kind and willing to be social. They are less inhibited than most Americans. There is a genuinely good feeling emanating from most people here!
I also wanted to post a picture of some baby squirrels that were in Evelyn’s office on Monday. They had fallen out of a nest.
This coming weekend, I am going to be working with the Ecotourism Program, welcoming visitors at a museum in Parque Nacional Santa Rosa, and giving them information about an old, historic building there. The visitors are mostly local Costa Ricans, so I get to practice my Spanish even more than usual. However there are some American tourists (I also worked at the museum on Tuesday), so I will be speaking some English as well.
That’s all for now! Hasta Luego!