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.

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Kids Saving the Rainforest Receives 2015 Best of Palo Alto Award!

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 9.23.20 PMKids Saving the Rainforest, Inc. has been selected for the 2015 Best of Palo Alto Award in the Business Services category by the Palo Alto Award Program!

Each year, the Palo Alto Award Program identifies companies that have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Palo Alto area a great place to live, work and play.

The 2015 Palo Alto Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Palo Alto Award Program and data provided by third parties. The Palo Alto Award Program works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

Thanks Everyone!

What Should You Do If You Find A Wild Animal In Need?

Slide1By María Pía Martín, DVM, Wildlife Veterinarian, Kids Saving The Rainforest

Kids Saving The Rainforest has a Wildlife Rescue Center. It works in coordination with the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Technology (MINAET) to look after the wellbeing of native wild animals. Thanks to Good Samaritans we are able to rescue sick, injured or orphan animals, rehabilitate them and then release them back to the wild.

In Costa Rica, many people with the best intentions find animals in need and want to help. The best option is to take the animal to an experienced veterinarian with permission of MINAET.

The first step is to determine if the animal is really in need. Is this animal unable to feed, to hide, or to get away? Is it bleeding? Has it been electrocuted? Has it been run-over by a car? Is it vomiting or does it have diarrhea?
If you answer yes any of these questions then the animal probably is in need of help.

Is it an orphan?
It’s important to do a correct identification of the species and then look for information about their behavior.
For example, some parents leave their baby by itself while they are looking for food, like deer. In other cases, the lonely animal is just looking for a mate, like male monkeys leave their troop for some time until they find a female from another troop (genetic diversity) to procreate. However, in other species, moms can leave their baby behind if they feels it is sick (like sloths), so sufficient time should always be given to allow the mom to come back.
Please call us if you see a baby by itself, we will gladly help you search for the best option.

What do I do if I find a sick or injured animal?
When you are going to grab it be very careful, remember that they are wild animals and are extremely frightened of people.  They may either run away (injured) or attack you. You can use a thick towel or leather gloves to protect yourself. Do not touch them with your bare hands; animals have diseases that may be transmitted to people. I recommend using latex gloves always and wash thoroughly with soap afterwards.
Place it in a box appropriate for its size with a dry and clean towel and keep it in a dark and calm place. Please call us to assist you in the next step.

Should I feed it? Should I give it any medication?
Please don’t. You may offer clean fresh water in a dish. Remember to keep it calm, away from dogs, cats, and other people while you find professional help.

The Wildlife Rescue Center’s number is 2777-2948, English and Spanish spoken.

Rainforest Facts

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Did you know that…
Rainforests are primarily defined by two factors: where they are found on the earth and the amount of rainfall they receive. Rainforests are typically found in tropical locations and receive from 160-315 inches of rain per year.

There are 3.4 million square miles of tropical forest around the equator and while rainforests cover only 2% of the Earth’s surface or 6% of its landmass, they house over ½ of the plant and animal species on Earth.

•    Costa Rican rainforests contain:
•    850 kinds of birds
•    100 species of dragonflies
•    729 types of butterflies
•    205 kinds of mammals
•    10,000 different varieties of plants

There are at least 3000 types of fruits in the rainforest including: avocados, coconuts, figs, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, bananas, guavas, pineapples, mangos, and tomatoes.
Vegetables include: corn, potatoes, rice, winter squash, yams · Spices include: black pepper, cayenne, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sugar cane, turmeric, coffee, and vanilla.

The US National Cancer Institute has identified 3000 plants that are active against cancer cells. 70% of these plants are found in the rainforest.

Despite these benefits…

Rainforests are being destroyed at a staggering rate. According to the National Academy of Science, at least 50 million acres a year are lost, an area the size of England, Wales, and Scotland combined.

An average of 137 species of life forms are driven into extinction every day in the world’s tropical rainforests due to things such as logging and cattle ranching which are destroying the trees and the animals’ homes.

On average, rainforest destruction includes:
•    64 acres/minute · 3,800 acres/hour · 93,000 acres/day
•    2,800,000 acres/month
•    33,800,000 acres/year

KSTR is trying to help stop the destruction.  You can help us to do so!  Stop by our store adjacent to the Hotel Mono Azul and do your souvenir shopping while helping to save the rainforest.  100 % of the proceeds go to save the rainforest!

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!

The Battle for a Wild Life

By Elle McGraw (Wildlife Rehabilitation Intern at KSTR)

No one enjoys losing. Especially when losing means life or death of beautiful animals. Everyday at our wildlife sanctuary, Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR), we embark on the battle of life or death in the case of each animal we receive. For some animals the battle is the immediate intervention between life or death; and for other, less severe cases, it consists of preparing goals in order for them to return to the wild. For all of us here at KSTR, we put our heart and soul into every animal that comes through our clinic.

In professions such as ours, it is imperative to detach yourself emotionally, at least until the animal prevails through the initial critical stages. However, in my personal experience, I have found this to be quite difficult, sometimes impossible. Each person at KSTR has dedicated their life to the welfare and conservation of wild animals, and when one’s love for animals runs so deep, it makes detaching oneself quite difficult. This lack of detachment can make the loss of an animal more painful, but the release that more rewarding.

I have seen some amazing things while working at KSTR, as well as endured the pain of loss. The enjoyment of seeing an animal released, continues to renew my spirits in order to continue the grueling work we do. I have witnessed animals that come in badly wounded from cars, electrocutions, and dog attacks, that survive in cases that seemed hopeless. There is never a time that we give up on an animal without trying, without putting our hearts into it.

In one case, of an agouti that was hit by a car, her hind leg was so severely broken that it required amputation. We knew that she required the amputation to save her life, but we didn’t know if she could ever be released with only three legs. When her wound was healed enough, we began taking her for walks, which quickly became runs. After a short time of her learning how to maneuver without her hind leg, she was too fast for us to catch. She fought her way through the pain of being hit by a car, infection, and the loss of a leg, all the way to release. We have since seen her a few times at the site we chose to release at.

The joy of seeing animals that would have otherwise been cast off, not only survive, but thrive back in the wild, has no equal to a wildlife rehabber. These are the moments we work so tirelessly for, these are the moments we live for. I cannot imagine a more rewarding job, or volunteer opportunity.

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Monkey Bridges: Where They Are and How They Function Written by Jenny Thelan, Volunteer and Pre-Vet Student at Iowa State

monkey bridge

Have you ever seen the blue ropes hanging around Manuel Antonio and Quepos? Those aren’t just any ropes, those are known as monkey bridges, and they’re very important for the conservation for all the monkeys in the area. The monkey bridges hanging way up in the trees over the road help provide safe paths for monkeys (and other animals) to travel safely over the roads. This helps prevent numerous vehicle accidents where monkeys are hit by cars, and also helps prevent the monkeys from using electrical wires and getting electrocuted.

In the past years, we at KSTR have traveled all over the local area with a GPS device in order to get the exact points of the monkey bridges and landmarks near the bridges. With these coordinates, we can put all of the monkey bridges on a map so we know exactly where they are, if one needs to be repaired, or if one simply isn’t in a sufficient place.  To figure out if the bridges continued to be in the places that would help the monkeys the greatest, our volunteers went out in the town to survey the locals.

The survey consisted of many different questions, such as if they had seen animals using the bridges or not. If animals had been using the bridges, we also asked what specific species was using each of the bridges. We also asked if they had ever seen an electrocuted animal or one that had been hit by a car. After getting all the data, we put it all together to see if the bridges were in the best places to be used to their highest potential. It helped us realize if there were places in Manuel Antonio and Quepos that either needed another monkey bridge or one that didn’t need one at all because of new construction or changes since they were put up.

Kids Saving the Rainforest is hoping that with this information we can make a bigger difference with the number of animals’ lives that can be saved. This information is vital in order to preserve the rainforest. We are hoping to do these surveys every few months so that we can accurately place the monkey bridges wherever they are needed.

If you want to sponsor a monkey bridge or support Kids Saving The Rainforest, please go here: razoo.com/story/Kids-Saving-The-Rainforest

100% of the proceeds go to save the rainforest!! Yay!!