(it took a while to get some updates on this blog… but here is a bit of an update)
Another field season had started in June 2016. My rough plans were going to Honduras for another field season with Operation Wallacea and afterwards head North the join Panthera Belize for a bit. So I booked my return flight to Belize City and I took an international flight from Belize City to San Pedro Sula in Honduras (Yes, one of the more dangerous cities in the world). The flight was amazing as you fly low in a small airplane over the coast of Belize …
All info you can read about San Pedro Sula (Honduras) is pretty much summarized by ‘leave as soon as possible, nothing to see’. Although it’s an interesting city, the main (one and only) tourist attraction is the cathedral. Anyway, soon enough I was going to meet up with the Opwall research crew to get out of civilisation for an 8 week expedition in Cusuco national park.
I was part of the mammal research team and we were going to investigate mammals using camera-traps and track surveys. Additionally, we did some (small) mammal trapping. The terrain was rough with lots of ups and downs, dwarf forest and a tropical climate. Luckily we had a local guide to take us to all the transects. This had a variety of advantages, he knew the area and the tracks, he was wearing a machete to clear the tracks and probably also for safety, etc. …
The camera traps were used to apply the REM (Random Encounter Model). The set up was a bit disappointing, as we aimed to set up 6 cameras per transect and leave them out for only 3 nights in order to monitor all the camps used during the Cusuco Opwall season 2016.
One of the highlights of this expedition were the jaguar tracks some of my colleagues found in one of the camps. Luckily they preserved it well so I could have a look and be quite confident they were jaguar tracks. We also found 2 more occasions of potential jaguar tracks during this week.
As an additional try out the mammal team tried some different set ups and played around with equipment. The first project was to try and set up an experiment to try to figure out some speed measurements of species, which is essential for the REM approach. We used camera-traps in a more or less hexagon shape with some food in the middle. We added some measurement indication in the view of the cameras in order to estimate speed. Unfortunately, we were not too successful in capturing animals, only some opossums.
In our second little project we tried to capture some of the medium sized mammals in Cusuco National Park in order to check what’s possible for future projects involving capturing animals. We used cat food and some left over chicken from meals as bait. We mostly caught opossums, but also some squirrels.
After the project I enjoyed the rest on the island of Utila for a little bit before heading off to Belize