Secrets of Rainforest Animals Discovered
Look who lives in Veragua Rainforest. See images of elusive rainforest animals captured by camera traps.
What goes on in the rainforest when no person is there to watch? At Veragua Rainforest Eco-Adventure Park in Costa Rica, they’re finding out with the help of a few hidden camera traps.
Elusive rainforest animals like jaguars, pumas and ocelots are hard for humans to see in the wild. These big cats, and many other animals, prefer solitude and to steer clear of people. With good reason since they are often hunted, either by ranchers who see them as predators to their livestock; or, sadly, for their fur.
Camera traps – specialized digital cameras in protective casings unobtrusively mounted on trees and other stationery objects in areas thought to be frequented by animals – help scientists see what’s happening in the jungle when humans aren’t around. Camera traps are especially helpful at night. Motion and infrared heat sensors trigger the camera to take photographs or videos when animals pass through its field of vision. Images are used to study the range of biodiversity, animal behavior patterns, and population estimates of wildlife that are not easy to observe.
Veragua Rainforest is joining its scientific investigations on rainforest animals with climate change research in new environmental education programs. The programs focus on conservation and STEM education elements of natural sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics in hands-on learning experiences.
“So far, we have seen species that are important for conservation, which shows that the Veragua Rainforest Reserve is an important biological corridor for the region. Animals observed include pumas, jaguars, spotted pacas, ocelots, Red Brocket Deer, and Central American agoutis, among others,” said Veragua biologist Edwin Gómez Méndez.
“Camera traps take images of animals in their habitat without disturbing them. This research will allow us to know the diversity of animals in the area, as well as the ecological and behavioral aspects related to their diet,” explained Gómez.
Seven cameras have been installed in selected sites around Veragua’s rainforest reserve in Costa Rica’s central Caribbean region. Scientists also are using sand traps to capture imprints of animal tracks.
“The results we obtain relate to our studies on climate change,” said Gómez. “There are changes currently happening with the climate, for instance directly affecting the flowering of trees and therefore, the production of fruits to feed animals. This project will give us the necessary tools to make decisions regarding future conservation actions and to generate models to determine the possible effects of climate change in the coming years.”
Veragua biologists are working with the National University, School of Veterinary Medicine, to apply their investigation results in order to determine the state of various animal populations in the region. In addition, since the area around Veragua Rainforest once was seriously affected by hunting, their animal studies are incorporated into an environmental education program for local schools and communities.
Students, volunteers, and visitors from around the world can join in Veragua Rainforest’s studies on rainforest animals, the climate, and conservation. Contact Veragua Rainforest to find out more about their new environmental education programs in Costa Rica.
Article by Shannon Farley