My name is Anne and I am a 22 year old student of environmental engineering from Germany. My adventure as a wildlife ranger started in May 2016. I spent 4 weeks at Aiko, an area of 330 acres in the rainforest of the Caribbean Lowlands of Costa Rica.
As Aiko’s main goal is nature protection, most parts of the area are primary forest and in its natural state. This offers great opportunities for wildlife monitoring, scientific research as well as reintroduction of animals into the wild.
In between this diversity of animals and plants there are three platforms providing the possibility for everyone to spend time in the jungle.
Gazing at the flora and fauna surrounding me
Three platforms providing the possibility for everyone to spend time in the jungle
Visitors can not only benefit from the spectacular view over primary rain forest, observing the natural wildlife and attending guided tours but also enjoy the great variety of fruit and vegetables grown organically near the platforms.
A great variety of fruit and vegetables grown organically
During the four weeks of my time at Aiko I got the opportunity to find out a lot about the tasks of a wildlife ranger.
First of all it is necessary to keep an eye on everything that’s going on in the area. Equipped with binoculars and machete these regular expedition tours usually started early before the heat came up. The tours where not only for controlling the borders of the area but also a great opportunity for me to encounter the enormous amount of flora and fauna the Costa Rican jungle has to offer.
Equipped with binoculars and machete
Another task came up during the last years through the cooperation with the Jaguar Rescue Center. They rescue animals for diverse reasons with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. During the time of my stay three rescued animals were released successfully at Aiko into their natural habitat.
The first of them, a neotropical bird snake (Pseustes poecilonotus) was a victim of a very common problem with snakes. It was encountered by locals in their house and accidentally confused with a venomous snake. After calling Jaguar Rescue Center they picked the snake up and then had to find a place to release it within a short period of time. In the end this was possible at Aiko. Snakes play an important role in the ecosystem, neotropical bird snakes for example are the natural predators of some venomous snakes.
Successfully released northern raccoon (Procyon lotor)
The next animal successfully released was a northern raccoon (Procyon lotor). As civilization grows, cities expand more and more and the natural habitat of wild animals decreases drastically. A few animals adapt to the new circumstances in order to survive, those are called synanthropes, such as northern raccoons. The one released at Aiko was found in a hotel kitchen and so had to be resettled again as soon as possible to prevent it from getting too used to humans. It was possible to release it at the same day at Aiko.
In this way a lot of different animals found a new home at Aiko. But the release of the third animal was something new. As well as the northern raccoon the common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis) is a synanthrope. This certain one was found as a baby of 20 grams, with the mother presumably killed. After it was raised at the Jaguar Rescue Center, it was quite used to humans and could not be released like a wild animal. So a step by step release was necessary. The first days the opossum lived in a cage right next to the jungle to get used to the new surroundings provided with different kinds of fruit, eggs and water. The next days the cage door was left open and the food supply slowly reduced to force him to get out of his safety zone to find food by himself. For two nights he came back in the morning and slept during the day in the cage. But after about a week he obviously found another place to stay at Aiko.
After a week the opossum found a place to stay at Aiko
My whole time at Aiko was full of new experiences, a whole load of new knowledge but also very relaxing in the middle of tropical rainforest gazing at the flora and fauna surrounding me.
Muchas gracias por todo y pura vida!