Costa Rica Primate Conservation

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1. In Brief

On this conservation research programme you will have the opportunity to gain valuable field-based experience in the pristine coastal rainforests of Costa Rica. With a focus on the four primate species found on the Osa Peninsula, you'll carry out critical surveys that are being used to find out how species are dispersing from Corcovado National Park into the surrounding reserve area and how climate change is affecting these endangered species and their threatened habitats. 

At first glance, Corcovado National Park on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is a mere pin prick on the world map, covering a measly 0.03% of the world’s landmass. This makes it even more astonishing that an incredible 4% of the world’s species call the park home and that it is, as described by National Geographic, ‘one of the most biologically intense places on the planet’.

Located in Central America, Costa Rica is nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean and is home to over 500,000 different species of animals, giving it the highest species density of any country in the world. Over 50% of species found in the country call the Osa Peninsula home, meaning this project is located in the most biodiverse region of one of the most biodiverse countries on the globe – truly a hotspot within a hotspot!

The Osa Peninsula at a glance:

  • The largest remaining tract of lowland rainforest in Pacific Mesoamerica
  • 2-3% of flora are found nowhere else in the world
  • At least 323 endemic species of plants and vertebrates
  • The largest population of scarlet macaws in Central America call the peninsula home
  • More than 10,000 types of insects
  • 700 species of trees, which is more than all of Europe and North America combined
  • 463 species of birds
  • 140 species of mammal, including 25 species of dolphins and whales.

Sadly, the region and its inhabitants are being gravely challenged by habitat fragmentation and destruction, pollution, poaching and climate change more broadly. Over the past several years, Frontier has been working on the peninsula to carry out groundbreaking survey work and vital data collection in an attempt to combat the effects of these challenges and to preserve this environmentally significant area.

Frontier's research camp itself is based amongst dense tropical forest on the edge of Corcovado National Park, close to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Volunteers live and work with other enthusiastic and energetic conservationists, working together to carry out surveys and data collection activities. 

      

    

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

  • Gain practical research and conservation field experience
  • Assist with the conservation of vital habitats and their resident species
  • Learn about primate ecology and biology and the various threats that these species are under, but how we can help conserve them.
  • Train in field methods related to primate field studies
  • Work within one of the world’s most biodiverse forest ecosystems
  • Work to improve the conservation status of some of the world's most endangered species
  • Vocational qualification available

FAST FACTS

 

Location Costa Rica
Activities Primate density and behavioural studies
Turtle patrols to monitor nesting and predation (seasonal)
Big cats and other mammal monitoring using field sign surveys
Bird surveys in the forest and lagoon
Amphibian and reptile surveys
Butterfly surveys (seasonal)
Self-tailored BTEC research project opportunities
Forest trails, river walks and beach walks 
Recreational sports
Trail creation and maintenance
Games nights
Nocturnal forest walks
Awareness-raising and recreation activities in the local community
Extra activities  and excursions (subject to availability and may involve extra cost)
Transport Pick-up from Puerto Jimenez weekly on a Monday before 12:00pm. Pick-ups available at all other times for $40
Accommodation Frontier forest research station in communal eco-cabins

 

 

WHAT'S INCLUDED

 

Before you go

Pre-departure support & documentation
Travel advice & documentation
Kit advice
Discounted medical kit (avilable to purchase directly from Frontier)
Free Frontier t-shirt (UK & US)
UK residential briefing weekend including food, accommodation and training (extra cost applies)

In-country Accommodation
3 meals daily (while on project)
Project orientation and training  
Airport pick-up, Mondays before 12:00pm
In-country emergency support
24-hour international HQ backup
BTEC and CoPE qualifications available (at an additional cost)

QUALIFICATIONS

A variety of qualifications are available on many of our projects. For example, BTEC certificates and diplomas on our Group conservation projects and TEFL certificates and BTECs on most of our teaching projects. You may also be able to gain a CoPE to support your university application. For more information on these qualifications, please see the qualifications section of our website or ask your volunteer advisor.

2. The project

WHAT WILL I BE DOING?

You will be working in the Pacific rainforests and beaches bordering Corcovado National Park, one of the most remote National Parks in the country which has been described by National Geographic as “one of the most biologically intense places on the planet”. Home to one of the largest tropical primary lowland rainforests in the world, Corcovado National Park is also home to a large range of endangered plant and animal species. Dense rainforest creates a dramatic habitat for hundreds of bird and mammal species, along with a high population of marine turtles nesting on the beaches each year.

FOCUS ON PRIMATES

Primates are an endangered group that are at risk from a number of stressors including habitat destruction and fragmentation, loss of key food sources, climate change and poaching for bush meat and for sale in the pet trade. These animals are critical in their ecosystems, being key seed dispersers, without their presence the  forest ecosystem would likely collapse, endangering many other species.

On our Costa Rica Primate Research Programme you will be carrying out extensive biodiversity surveys on all four species of primate. Work will include walking primate transects to collect valuable data on the white-faced capuchin monkeys, Central American squirrel monkeys, Geoffrey’s spider monkey and mantled howler monkey which thrive in these biologically rich forests.If you are interested you will also have the chance to conduct desk based research that will help the research team in assessing the current status of the populations worldwide in relation to our results. 

These surveys are typically conducted three to four times each week and involve recording every troop encountered during slow forest treks, using binoculars. It is important to take an accurate count of the number of individuals within the troop (a good pair of binoculars will certainly prove beneficial!) as well as calculating the size of the area surveyed by taking measurements of the distance between the trail and the troop of monkeys. Behavioural data is also collected to determine activity patterns in different habitats, and information regarding plant foraging preferences is also recorded to gain a better understanding of the ecosystem as a whole.

WHAT ELSE CAN I GET INVOLVED IN?

Other activities you will also have the chance to get involved in include, patrolling the beaches of nesting endangered marine turtles to assess nesting preferences, hatchling success and population health, undertaking a big cat research project which aims to address one of the biggest threats to wild cats globally, human-wildlife conflict, undertaking work on the data deficient neotropical otter whilst walking the course of the rivers, and surveying populations of neotropical birds, invertebrates and other animal groups on this research programme.

In addition to these wildlife research projects you will also be involved in other activities which play a key part in conservation. For example, typically once per week all project participants assist with the creation and maintenance of trails which facilitate the majority of the surveys we conduct. We will also aim to show you the wonders of the jungle, with regular walks to find rare and endangered species and night walks to discover what happens in the jungle when the sun goes down!

Though there is enough downtime to get yourself stuck into a good book, swim in the rivers and take part in horse riding, canopy tours, dolphin and whale tours and a trip to Corcovado National Park (not included in the price) among others, the project boasts a busy schedule focusing on its broad range of high conservation impact science for which participants will receive full training in the field. You will receive a wide range of lectures designed to complement the practical research programme to provide background knowledge about the species we are working with, based around their biology and ecology and understand the conservation needs of these species.

  

3. What to expect

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I ARRIVE?

If you arrive on a Monday before 12:00pm, you will be greeted at Puerto Jimenez airport or bus station by a Frontier staff member and escorted by local bus to the project camp. If arriving after 12:00pm on a Monday or at any time on any other day, a pick-up can be arranged for an additional $40.

  

WHERE WILL I BE STAYING?

Life on camp is a unique experience. You will be staying in simple, shared, mixed-sex eco-cabins amidst the jungles near to Carate. This is a jungle research camp, so you may sometimes find yourself sleeping in a tent or in a hammock – a mosquito net is an absolute must! We have tried to keep the camp in harmony with its pristine surroundings, so conditions are simple, but environmentally friendly and comfortable.

The camp is situated about 5 minutes walk from Playa Carate, a beach which stretches for over 20 miles all the way into Corcovado National Park. There are cool, refreshing showers and environmentally friendly, composting toilets on camp too. You’ll be feeling one with the jungle before you know it!

Check out our camp tour video!

Check out our video on Frontier Gap Year TV from Costa Rica, showing you volunteer life on the Osa Peninsula.

WHAT WILL I BE EATING?

We feel it is very important to support the local economy, so most of our supplies are sourced locally. This means we do not have access to everyone’s preferred foods and much of what we eat is seasonal and fresh. Costa Rican food is delicious, with a focus on rice, beans and good quality fruit and vegetables. 

Cooking and cleaning are carried out communally on a rotational basis, so everybody will be responsibility for meal preparation. You will have the opportunity to learn how to cook the national staple food, gallo pinto, consisting of fried rice and black beans. Another dish that is simple to prepare with local ingredients and is often eaten on camp is light and crispy tortillas stuffed with refried beans and vegetables.

There are no refrigeration facilities for meat, fish and dairy, so the team takes the environmentally friendly option of vegetarianism during their time on project. If this sounds worrying to you, not to worry, as volunteers regularly make delicious comfort foods such as pizza, falafel-style burgers, curries with homemade chapattis and ginger and cinnamon cakes to name but a few. There is also powdered milk to satisfy avid tea-drinkers. 

Much of the fresh water in the streams surrounding the camp and on the peninsula are safe to drink and it’s important to remember to keep hydrated. Just be sure to check with staff first.

Costa Rica is also world famous for its coffee and it represents the country’s biggest export, so coffee lovers will have plenty of opportunities to get their hands on some. Luxuries like chocolate and packet soup are available in the town nearby, but it is worth bringing some of your favourite treats out with you as well as any herbs or spices. It is recommended that you buy snacks when in town (cereal bars, biscuits etc) for mid-morning sugar dips or to give you energy on long treks.

4. The reviews

A MAGICAL HAVEN  | 10 Nov 2017
Frogs! Turtles! Mammals! Fun! Food! The people, the wildlife, the general fact that this place is...

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SIGHTS, SOUNDS AND SENSATIONS  | 15 Feb 2017
I have been an Assistant Research Officer in Costa Rica on the Big Cats, Primates and Turtles pro...

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5. Gallery

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6. Extras

ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES

Costa Rica provides everything you could ever desire for an action packed and eye opening gap year or eco break. You may wish to explore some of the activities and unforgettable sights that are on offer here whether it is in your spare time, or even in a few extra days spent in this spectacular country at the beginning or end of the project. There are so many possibilities to explore – here are just a few suggestions! Try white water rafting, river kayaking, or even ocean kayaking – all activities that Costa Rica is famous for whether you are an expert or a compete novice.

If you have a head for heights see the landscape stretch out beneath you from above with a canopy tree top tour, or even an aerial tram! Other adventure activities that are on offer include biking, hiking, snorkelling and even bungee jumping! For something more sedate, there are butterfly and insect farms – fascinating for those with an interest in the natural world. The Costa Rica camp is also close to the border with Panama so you could always add another country onto your list by heading to this fascinating country too.

Alternatively you may wish to visit the Frontier house or local hostel in Puerto Jimenez ($7.50 per day, food not included). Costa Rica really does have something for everyone – you will never be short of ways to enjoy your spare time!

* Please note that you will need to cover your own costs for extra activities.

Kayaking

Learn more about one of the most biologically intense places on earth as you explore solitary beaches, beautiful rivers, mountains, waterfalls, farms and amazing diversity of wildlife on a guided kayak tour. You will have the unique opportunity to explore the mangroves from the water, and then paddle towards the sea where you may encounter dolphins, sea turtles, fish and ocean birds. You can kayak individually, in a group or with a guide who will teach you more about the incredible mangrove and coastal environment of Costa Rica.

Wildlife Sanctuary

Visit this remote wildlife sanctuary which is providing wildlife rescue and rehabilitation for orphaned, injured and displaced animals indigenous to south Costa Rica. The sanctuary promote conservation through education and community involvement and work promote the maintenance of natural biodiversity. The sanctuary run a public education programme and you have the opportunity to visit the organisation for a day to see the animals, meet and chat with staff and walk around 700 acres of local forest land.

Modern conveniences

 

Puerto Jiminez - 1 hour collectivo from camp at own cost

  • Banks / ATMs; Banco Nacional and Banco de Costa Rica
  • Bar / cafe
  • Hotels and hostels
  • Internet cafe
  • Medical clinic
  • Souvenir shop
  • Supermarket
  • Traditional markets and cafes
  • Western style restaurants

7. Dates and Costs

COSTS

1 week $895

2 weeks $1,395

3 weeks $1,895

4 weeks $2,295

5 weeks $2,545

6 weeks $2,745

7 weeks $2,895

8 weeks $3,145

9 weeks $3,395

10 weeks $3,595

20 weeks $5,645

Extra week $345

 

DEPARTURE DATES

Weekly on a Monday

DURATION

You can join this project for a minimum of 1 week

WHAT'S INCLUDED

Before you go

  • Pre-departure support & documentation
  • Travel advice & documentation
  • Kit advice
  • Discounted medical kit (avilable to purchase directly from Frontier)
  • Free Frontier t-shirt (UK & US)
  • UK residential briefing weekend including food, accommodation and training (extra cost applies)

In-country

  • Accommodation
  • 3 meals daily (while on project)
  • Project orientation and training 
  • Airport pick-up, Mondays before 12:00pm
  • In-country emergency support
  • 24-hour international HQ backup
  • BTEC and CoPE qualifications available (at an additional cost)

AIRPORT INFORMATION

Nearest airport(s): Puerto Jimenez (PJM)

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

Flights

Flights are not included in our trip costs. However, we have partnered with an experienced and professional team of travel experts to help our volunteers find the best flight deals for their trips with us. This travel specialist operates in the tailor-made, long haul multi-stop travel market, arranging complex airfares and transfers for independent travellers. They provide expertise, security and a vast product range along with a Travel Butler service which is a single point of contact and support whilst you are overseas.

We recommend that you obtain a quote using the following contact details rather than book online, as our partner will offer you the most competitive fares. To receive your quote or to seek any advice for your flights, please contact our dedicated team of travel experts on 0800 082 9994 (or +44 800 082 9994 outside the UK) or email frontier@flightcentre.co.uk .

Visas

For fast, efficient and up-to-date visa advice please contact our recommended visa consultancy partner:

Depending on your destination country and your country of origin, you might require a visa. Please see the appropriate country consular website for details or contact our affiliate visa consultancy service. Please note that your visa will usually start on the date that you enter the destination country regardless of when it was issued. Please check with the relevant embassy or high commission. If you are purchasing your visa or paying entry/exit fees in-country you will probably need to pay in US Dollars. If you have any questions please consult the relevant embassy or high commission. Please check the visa information regularly, as changes often happen without warning.

Insurance

You'll need to buy appropriate travel insurance covering your participation on the project. You won't be able to go without the right travel insurance so double check to avoid disappointment. Please make sure that you're covered for the whole duration of your trip – from the day you leave the UK to the day you return. It's also best to get your travel insurance at the same time as paying the deposit for your project. Depending on your policy, this will cover you for any unexpected cancellations.

Your insurance should include the following:

  • Medical cover, including medical emergencies and medical evacuations (up to USD$3,000,000 / GBP£2,000,000);
  • Personal liability (up to USD$1,500,000 / GBP£1,000,000);
  • Cancellation and curtailment of your trip (up to the value of your project contribution).

If you are going to be scuba diving you should get coverage for scuba diving up to 30m, including hyperbaric therapy treatment (unlimited). You should consider obtaining insurance to cover you for any additional activities which you plan to do during, before, or after your Frontier project. We recommend that you obtain cover for your baggage and personal effects.


LEGAL STATEMENT
Frontier Partner Projects and Frontier group projects are run in partnership with in-country NGOs, small community based organisations, local research institutes, academic organisations and conservation agencies. Project descriptions and information are supplied directly by our partners or field staff and are accurate at time of publishing.

We aim to keep information up to date and accurate, however, the nature of our projects and in particular the fact that they are constantly evolving and developing in response to changing needs means that project activities, travel schedules, tour itineraries and daily timetables can change overnight and without notice.

8. How to apply

To apply for this placement, click on "Apply Now" below. Fill in the short application form and one of our advisers will then call you back to answer any questions and make sure this is the perfect placement for you. Applying doesn't cost a penny and you won't pay anything until you're completely happy and you're ready to reserve your place.


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