Release of Squirrel Monkeys at KSTR

Margarita with Squirrel monkeys for articleBy Volunteer Margarita Samsonova

Kids Saving the Rainforest is in the process of establishing a reintroduction program for squirrel monkeys. Central American squirrel monkeys, also known as Saimiri oerstedi, are nearly extinct in Panama and are threatened in Costa Rica. There are only 4,000 individuals living in the wild, mostly in Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Parks, located on Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.

The low population of Central American squirrel monkeys makes reintroduction programs of these species very important to sustain the population and help reproduction. In order for the release to be successful, the monkey’s behavior and its predator responses are tested to see what chance the animal has to survive in the wild. The project requires sustained long term observations and research to ensure a successful reintroduction into the wild.

One of our volunteers, Margarita Samsonova, is dedicating her time to observing candidates for release and has been testing their ability to respond to predators. The predator experiments were set on the monkeys six times using the scents of predators who are also rehabilitating in the rescue center. Scents of animals who hunt squirrel monkeys in Costa Rica such as dogs, white- faced monkeys, kinkajous and hawks were used along with their recorded vocalizations to test predator response. Pieces of cloth were placed in the predators’ enclosures overnight and then placed with the vocal recordings in the squirrel monkey enclosure the next day.

A few of the squirrel monkeys had previously been kept as pets, so it is crucial to observe their reaction and behavior to get an idea of whether the release would be successful or not. It was observed that only four of the six candidates displayed “appropriate” behavior and reacted to the predator sound and smell the same as a squirrel monkey in the wild would. Two of those candidates didn’t approach the cloth with scent, meaning that they sensed the predators’ presence and didn’t want to risk danger. The other two squirrel monkeys, after some time observing the cloth, did get the food from it but retreated to eat it, which could mean that they saw no presence of predators and decided to quickly grab the food—a normal behavior of squirrel monkeys in the wild. The remaining two individuals came right to the cloth once it was put out; they didn’t react to any vocalizations and didn’t move from the cloth to eat the food, which could mean that those animals were domesticated and may have lost their natural instinct.

The testing of behavior will continue until the beginning of April and the planned release is in mid-April. It is believed that pre-release monitoring and experiments will help to determine an estimation of which of the candidates would have high survival rates during reintroduction.

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Happy New Year to All from Kids Saving the Rainforest!

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Even if you don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions, please do so this year by becoming more conscientious of saving energy so that we can all contribute to create a healthier planet!

The average American ecological footprint is 5 times more than other parts of the world. Living in Costa Rica, we use less, but it is always good for everyone to cut back.

Here are some ways to do so:

  1. Only boil the amount of water you want to use as it takes more energy to boil extra water that is not necessary.
  2. When you leave a room, make sure you turn off the lights, TV, fan, air conditioner, and stereo.
  3. Before throwing things away, make sure you can not use the item for something else, such as to reuse the wrapping paper of a gift, make birthday cards out of old ones you have, reuse containers, get shoes repaired, or get the broken machine fixed.
  4. Recycle cans, plastic bottles and glass containers.
  5. Take shorter showers, 5 minutes is great.       If you take 10-minute showers you could be wasting enough water to fill up a swimming pool and be creating 2,200 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions from the energy used to heat the water each year! Try setting the thermostat of your water heater to a lower temperature. Try buying a low-flow shower fitting to reduce the flow of water by 50%.
  6. Growing up in areas that did not have a lot of water to use, we learned to flush the toilet only when necessary, not after each use. We had a saying “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.” I think you get my drift! Another way to save water with the toilet is to fill a two-liter soda bottle with water and sink it into the tank. Then you will use 2 liters less each time you flush. If you are buying a new toilet, look for the HET (high-efficiency) label when purchasing. Not only will you save water but also your water bill will go down.
  7. If you are lucky enough to have a dishwasher, only run it when it is full and you will save up to 20 gallons of water a day.       If you wash dishes by hand, don’t run the water until you have to rinse. To wash, fill the sink with water so that you don’t waste water while you are washing. When rinsing do so as quickly as possible to save water.
  8. Use solar power wherever possible, only wash clothes in cold water, line dry clothes instead of using a dryer, when using a dryer, keep the filter clean, close curtains when the sun is beating in, clean you’re a/c’s filter regularly.

Everyone can make a difference. Now that you know how, do it to feel good about yourself and to make this a great planet to live on.

Have a great year from all of us at Kids Saving the Rainforest!

 

Making a Difference

Essay award winner Jennifer Mooney and Daughter Ella Quepolandia Sept 2015By Volunteer Anne Hill

Jennifer Mooney came to Costa Rica with a desire to see “a real jungle.” She left with a desire to change the world.

After traveling to Manuel Antonio and learning about the efforts of Kids Saving the Rainforest, Jen realized two things. The first was that the rainforest is a vital and vanishing resource that must be protected.

“My heart will forever remain with the amazing creatures of Costa Rica and their fight to survive in a world filled with change and development,” she noted.

The second was that children with a dream can make a profound difference. Inspired by the story of Janine Licare and Alison Livingstone, the two 9-year-olds who started KSTR in 1999 to protect the endangered rainforest ecosystem, she wanted to impart that same passion and courage to her 7-year-old daughter.

When she arrived back in the states, Jen took action. Her employer, Norwex, announced an essay competition to support non-profit organizations engaged in environmental protection efforts. A grant of $5,000 would be issued to the NGO nominated by the employee who wrote the winning essay. In an impassioned commentary, Jen wrote of the work of KSTR, describing its Monkey Bridge program, sanctuary, and efforts to protect and rehabilitate endangered animals in the Costa Rican rainforest, and to preserve and restore the native habitat.

In her essay, Jen wrote: “KSTR’s efforts with both animal rehabilitation and release, as well as rainforest conservation, no doubt contribute to quality of life improvement, not just for the Manuel Antonio/Quepos area but globally as well. I am grateful to them for all they do and know that if the world’s rainforests are not preserved, the entire world will suffer great loss.”

Last week, Jen learned that her essay had won the competition. Because of her effort, KSTR will receive a $5,000 grant to support its facilities and procure additional acreage.

But Jen didn’t stop at the macro level. She set out to encourage the kids in her daughter Ella’s Girl Scout troop to follow Janine’s and Alison’s example. She shared with them the story of KSTR and encouraged them to come up with their own ideas for changing the world.

“I wanted my daughter and her fellow Brownies to follow the example of Janine and her friend and recognize the importance of a dream and how great an impact you can make on people, animals and the world if you apply creativity, perseverance and heart to that dream.”

If you would like to know more about Kids Saving The Rainforest, please visit us on Facebook,  log onto our website at http://www.kidssavingtherainforest.org, or take a Wildlife Sanctuary Tour where 100 percent of the profits go to saving the rainforest.  Contact info@kstr.org for more information.

KSTR Thanksgiving Updates

KSTR has a lot to be thankful this year! 

We have been able to continue our mission of saving the rainforest and the wildlife in it a day at a time!  We want to thank those of you who have supported us through the years, and to give people visiting a chance to help too by taking a tour of our Sanctuary, where 100% of the proceeds go to the wildlife in our sanctuary.  See below for more information.

KSTR’s wildlife educational tour is growing by leaps and bounds.  The tour is from 9 to 12 Noon every day except Tuesdays.  You will get to see lots of wildlife that cannot be released back into the wild and you will have a view of a baby sloth eating breakfast behind the clinic windows.
After the tour you can shop in our store, eat a delicious snack and swim in a beautiful pool before heading out.  Transportation is included: Adults $60 Kids under 12, $45.  And the best news is that 100% of the proceeds go to feed, treat, and enrich the wildlife in the sanctuary!  So come out to the tour and help us to save the rainforest all at the same time!!  Contact Chip at chip@kstr.org or call 4033-0091

We also have great news for sloth lovers out there:

We have a new position for a volunteer/intern in our sloth nursery!  We have lots of baby sloths that need care!  It is a volunteer position so there is a fee of $800 per month for room and board at our beautiful location, http://www.bluebanyaninn.com, and we need someone for 6 months. This is a dream position so hurry up and apply!  There is no university in the world that could teach you what you will learn with us for a lot less money than a university!  Contact sam@kidssavingtherainforest.org for more information.

KSTR and The Sloth Institute (TSI) are helping to save more and more orphaned sloths and release them into the wild.  The release location is up and running at Tulemar! (Not open to the public)

America’s PBS (Public Broadcasting System) bought the rights to BBC1’s hit 2 part series featuring KSTR. It was shown in September to a very successful following.  It is called Nature’s Miracle Orphans, a Second Chance (You can find it here).

KSTR has received a very generous donation of land to reforest 45,000 trees. The land was a teak farm and KSTR will be reforesting with indigenous and fruit trees to provide a corridor for the squirrel monkeys as well as other wildlife.  The new rainforest will also have trees to provide them shelter, plus insects and fruit in the trees that they can eat.  KSTR will harvest the fruit to feed the wildlife in their care at our rescue center and sanctuary.   Finalization of the property transfer will be in April, which is the start of rainy season so it will be the perfect time to start planting saplings.

KSTR is in the process of creating an educational center to house more volunteers, interns, students, biologists, wildlife vets, and researchers. This is a very exciting project that will help save the rainforest in many new ways!

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Q&A: The Rainforest, Pollution, & Environmental Conservation

rainforest photo

with Biologist Rebecca Fox and questions from

Medea Creek Teen Club in Oak Park, CA

1.    What are the downsides of living in the rainforest? Why?

Humidity! It is very difficult to air dry clothing. Some electronics like cameras or laptops are affected by the extreme humidity.  There are so many living things here, that you can find scorpions in your shoes, plants growing in your washing machine and mold on anything made from leather if you do not use them for a few days.

2.    How does the greenhouse effects effect the rainforest’s ecosystem

The trees in the rainforest convert carbon dioxide to oxygen. With increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the current number of trees in the rainforest cannot convert it fast enough. When rainforest is cut down or burned, all the carbon dioxide collected by the trees during their lifetime returns to the atmosphere. Rising global temperatures can disrupt the life cycles of plants. They can start to produce flowers and fruit at different times of the year and this in turn affects the animals that rely on these plants as a food source. If the change in global temperature is slow, some plants and animals may have time to adapt to a new environment. Others may migrate towards the poles as their habitat becomes too hot. If the temperature increases quickly, they will not have a chance to adapt or migrate, and many species in the tropics will go extinct.

3.    How does the evolution of our world (i.e. cars, planes, etc.) effect the growth of our rainforests?

As globalization and technology advances, there is more demand for resources from rainforests. To manufacture smartphones, a mineral called Coltan is needed. The number one source of this mineral is located under the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the process of extracting the mineral from the earth the rainforest is cut down and rivers are polluted. This rainforest is home to the critically endangered mountain gorilla, whose small population is now even more threatened due to the mining for smartphone minerals.

4.    How does pollution effect the evolution of species?

If pollution significantly alters the environment of a species, it can push that species to either adapt to the new conditions or to die. During the industrial revolution in England it was noticed that a new variety of peppered moth developed. Before the revolution a white bodied moth was commonly seen. Once large scale coal burning began and entire towns were polluted by soot, a black bodied moth began replacing the white peppered moth. This newly emerged species was named Biston betularia f. carbonaria, after the polluting substance that prompted its evolution. Any change in the environment can have an effect on the evolution of species, the difference with pollution is that we can control it.

5.    What would happen is army ants go extinct? Would the animals that depend on army ants (i.e. birds) adapt to their new life or would they die?

Different species of birds source their food from army ant raids. There are ‘obligate antbirds’ that rely completely on the activity of army ants for all of their food. Without army ants they do go extinct. Some other birds feed opportunistically on insects disrupted by army ants. In Monteverde, Costa Rica many species of passing migratory birds do follow army ants for food. This means that if army ants went extinct here in Costa Rica you might notice the disappearance of migratory thrushes or warblers in California.

6.    How much of the rainforest is still undiscovered or mysterious?

It is difficult to give an accurate measurement. Scientists estimate that there are still 30,000 plant species that we have not identified, and most of them will be found in rainforests. In 2005 some scientists looking at Mozambique on Google Earth came across a huge patch of rainforest surrounded by savannah. There was no information about this rainforest known to science. They went to explore this mysterious rainforest and on their first expedition discovered 10 new species including butterflies, snakes and chameleons.

7.    Judging by how much rain we have, how will the rainforest survive and how long will it still be a good habitat for animals?

The rainforest used to cover 14% of the earth’s land surface, today it just covers 6%. The rainforest is disappearing so quickly due to logging for wood and paper or agriculture. The future survival of the rainforest does not depend so much on the changing amounts of rainfall, it depends on the rate at which humans continue to destroy it. If we continue to destroy the rainforest at similar rates, 80-90% of the rainforest will disappear in the next 40 years. Over half of all animal and plant species on earth live in the rainforest. When their habitat disappears, so will they.

8.    With the animals going extinct because of pollution and the cutting of trees, how will it affect us?

Animals and plants of the rainforest may hold the secrets to curing many human diseases. 25% of modern medicines come from substances found in the rainforest. Right now scientists are studying the algae found on sloths as it may have the potential to kill cancer cells. Animals and plants in the rainforest are interdependent. Animals that act as pollinators, soil regenerators or seed dispersers are vital in the survival of many different types of plants that humans like to eat. If the bats, monkeys, birds and ants of the rainforest disappear, some foods like cashews, figs, avocados, vanilla and chocolate may disappear too or become very rare and expensive.

9.    The trees with rubber sap inside- when do you think that those types of trees will go extinct because of cutting them down too much?

When a natural resource is highly valued by people, such as the rubber from rubber trees, it is usually cultivated instead of being taken from the wild trees in the forest. This means that it is unlikely that the rubber tree will go extinct because people will keep planting them to harvest the rubber. Large rubber tree plantations can have a bad effect on the rainforests of Southeast Asia. There, the rainforest is cut down to make room for rubber plantations and this is pushing species such as the clouded leopard, macaques and gibbons towards extinction.

10.    How does the survival of the fittest apply to the rainforest?

Animals and plants that are best adapted to the rainforest environment will live long enough to reproduce and their species will be more likely to survive. This means they need to be well adapted to the high temperatures, high humidity and frequent rainfall. As the rainforest is cut down and the habitat becomes a mixture of rainforest patches with pastures for cattle and agricultural plantations, those animals that can survive in this new environment will survive longer. For example, here in Costa Rica the squirrel monkeys can live in fragmented rainforest and travel through agricultural lands, however the spider monkeys need large areas of untouched primary rainforest to survive.

Amy the Anteater Part One: The Queen of the Night

Slide1By: Intern Duncan Coleman

The darkness was setting in on the “secret” garden. The night’s grasping fingers had finally prevailed over the shining rays of the sun. My mind swam in a sea of uncertainty. Panic was overcoming me. Questions surfaced from the depths of my consciousness like so many crashing waves in a tempestuous ocean. Would she ever come down? Would she sleep in the tree all night? What would happen if I lost her? Will she die?! A bloodthirsty swarm of mosquitoes now descended upon me in the twilight dusk, buzzing in triumph at having secured a new host. Now I questioned whether I would make it through the night.

I came to be involved in this dire fiasco when I decided to take Amy on a walk in the Secret Garden. Amy was an anteater. She had reached her full adult size and was a sight to behold. She was the queen of the night, garbed in a flowing black jacket over her broad grey shoulders. Her beauty knew no bounds. For, she possessed an untamed, wild spirit within her that all the more enhanced her majestic figure. Amy, however, was scarred by the merciless hand of life. She was attacked by a dog. In the struggle for her continued existence she lost her right front claw and badly injured her left paw. It was in this deplorable condition that KSTR found her; bleeding, afraid, and desperate for help.

Then… she arrived. When I first laid my eyes upon her I could not help to stand aghast, awestruck by her. It was as if she was the sun and I was the sole beholder of the dawning of the world. She came into my view with all her golden glory, all her crimson creation, and all her maroon majesty. I was caught, helpless to escape from the web of wonderment that now seemed to envelop my heart.
Amy gathered her strength in the wildlife rehabilitation clinic at KSTR. As each day faded into the next, Amy grew stronger. The healing ointment, the fresh termites, the cosy anteater abode, and the unconditional love of her caretakers sped Amy’s recovery.

Yet, for all this, I longed to take her out into the Secret Garden to see her in all her glory. I hoped for a glimpse, a small taste of what it was like to see her in the wild. In my eyes, she was but a reflection of her true, unbridled beauty outside of her natural environment. She was a moonlit marvel, masking the true, raw, blazing flames of her innermost soul. Taking Amy to the Secret Garden was the only way I could peer into her that natural inferno of the purest beauty.
The Secret Garden is the paradise for anteaters. When you enter the garden, you enter from high above. Trekking downwards, you can see an expansive meadow surrounded by towering rainforest trees to the right. These trees act as the gatekeepers to the garden, sheltering it from wandering eyes. A small gurgling brook runs through the meadow, which feeds into a stream that flows on one side of the garden. The grass grows long and green. The butterflies glide across the meadow this way and that. Wild monkeys can be faintly heard in the distance. Aromas of fresh citrus fruit and blossoming hibiscus can be smelled in the breeze. The birds fill the air with sweet melodies that seem to briefly touch the soul with each chirp. In this land, a bountiful feast of ants and termites beckons anteaters across the land to climb up the leafy trees and lap up the juicy morsels.

Soon enough, I found myself with Amy in this veritable Anteater Eden. I watched from afar as she climbed in a tree dressed ornately in lush, light-green bromeliads. Even without her front claw, she climbed with a grace that I had never before witnessed. Her movements were slow and calculated, yet absolutely effortless, as if flying on the whims of the wind or swimming with the currents of the ocean. Then, all of a sudden, she stopped her graceful sail through the branches. In drowsy ant-induced ecstasy, Amy fell asleep in the tree.

And so… the darkness crept into the garden, the mosquitoes descended upon me, and my mind became awash in a tempestuous sea of unanswerable questions. I paced back and forth. I worried and fretted over what to do. My radio did not work and I had no headlamp to see Amy. Worst of all, my exposed legs and arms were getting attacked by a never ending onslaught of vicious mosquitoes.

In a frenzied panic, I ran. I ran up the hill all the way to the clinic. I told the others what had happened, snatched a headlamp, a working radio, and a rain jacket. With these items in tow, I raced back to the Secret Garden, hoping that she was still asleep in the same tree where I had left her.

To my amazement, Amy still lay asleep in the same nook of the tree that I left her in. Relief welled over me and I thanked the heavens for her continued slumber. My feeling of relief was short lived when the thought of staying in the Secret Garden overnight crossed my worried mind. Bloodthirsty monsters were – quite literally – draining me of life, weakening my resolve and willpower to continue. In a spout of hysteria, which was partly due to my predicament, I began to think that what I was watching was not really an anteater at all, but a part of the tree that looked like an anteater.

I called over the radio for someone to come down and ameliorate my fear of my own mind playing tricks on me. The two brave souls who came down to the Secret Garden, Dani and Kristy, assured me that I was in fact looking at an anteater. With this assurance, I left the secret garden, vowing to return at dawn. The decision would later come to haunt me…
To be continued in September’s Quepolandia…..stay tuned!