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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nicaragua Wildlife

Not all wildlife is easily seen by us when walking in a tropical forest. Most animals manage to avoid detection. Some wildlife are more active at night, others blend in with their surroundings. Many stay in secretive places most of their time. If we don't see them often, perhaps their prey won't see them, either. This green vine snake (Oxybelis fulgidus) is an example. Its color and shape make it difficult to see when among a mass of vines or small branches. In the pictures below, it emerged to bite an Olive Sparrow (Arremonops rufivirgatus) and devour it, while the latter was sleeping on its nest. Our volunteers caught the event in action, and Florian Schmid made the following set of photos and videos. 

Wildlife photography Nicaragua

green vine snake

wildlife in Nicaragua

Olive Sparrow

Arremonops rufivirgatus

Green vine snake

Olive Sparrow
FUNDECI/GAIA conducts many field activities in wildlife research and conservation which can use the assistance of volunteers, many of them coordinated from Estacion Biologica in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Whether you are a biologist, a student or just a nature lover, if you would like to participate, we would like to work with you. You can contact us if you would like to be a wildlife monitoring volunteer. Help us study and protect the mammals, butterflies, birds, fish and other wildlife of Nicaragua. 
wildlife photography
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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Apoyo Spanish School, Nicaragua

Studying Spanish at Apoyo Spanish School is not just about studying Spanish. There are lots of fun moments with new experiences as well as the grammar, verb conjugation, and vocabulary of Spanish language instruction. Here are a a few scenes which demonstrate the unique aspects in which you learn while you enjoy.

Apoyo Spanish School
Students of Apoyo Spanish School visit the Catarina overlook, with Lake Apoyo below. Photo by Heidi Burgwardt.
Each week, students of Apoyo Spanish School visit the Pueblos Blancos, which include Catarina and other nearby small towns near Laguna de Apoyo. These authentic villages are full of precolombian and colonial heritage, with indigenous ethnicities predominant and artisan traditions which pre-date the Spanish arrival. From this view, it is easy to see why Cacique Diriangen loved Laguna de Apoyo.
Nicaragua Spanish Schools
Simba loves to join swimmers for a dip in Lake Apoyo. Heidi is his best friend! Photo by Heidi Burgwardt.
Lake Apoyo is a water-filled volcanic caldera, and  Apoyo Spanish School is located along the shore of the lake in the Apoyo volcanic caldera, between Granada and Masaya in Nicaragua. There is ample time for swimming in its clear waters and relaxing along the shore. Lake Apoyo is slightly salty, clear, the best swimming hole in all of Nicaragua. The lake is warm and inviting for a swim both day and night.
Apoyo Spanish School
Trolls learned Spanish here, and returned for a visit a year later. 
Students at Apoyo Spanish School often return for visits to Laguna de Apoyo, and we are always happy to see them!
Nicaragua Spanish Schools
Students at Apoyo Spanish School also serve as bird perches.
Our staff at Estacion Biologica is always involved in some conservation or research project. Students at Apoyo Spanish School can participate as volunteers in many of these projects, including reforestation, animal rescue, wildlife monitoring, and others.

Apoyo Spanish School
Bela gives a friendly greeting to all visitors at Estacion Biologica in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. 
The modest infrastructure of Estacion Biologica is simple and rustic, but comfortable. Hammocks are available for relaxing at any time, and Bela, our youngest dog, will visit to say hello. You can stay with us as just a visitor, take Spanish classes, or participate in our volunteer program. We serve homestyle meals, with healthy ingredients, thoughtfully prepared. We emphasize using locally grown products and minimize the use of processed foods. We can accommodate special food needs such as vegetarian, vegan, kosher, and other restrictions with advance notice.
Nicaragua Spanish School
Birdwatching before classes at Apoyo Spanish School. Dawn is the best time to see birds, and a watching them an hour is great way to start the day.
The staff at Estacion Biologica includes several professional bird diversity specialists. Each week, students of Apoyo Spanish School go on birdwatching and nature interpretation walks in the forest of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Birdwatchers typically see about twenty-five bird species in a one-hour birdwatching activity before breakfast. Bring your binoculars and a field guide!

If you would like to learn Spanish or improve your Spanish language ability, we would like to help you. Apoyo Spanish School is the oldest intensive Spanish language school in Nicaragua and the only school officially operated by a Nicaraguan not-for-profit foundation. Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to register for a Spanish course.
Nicaragua Spanish School
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Trafficking in Wild Animals in Nicaragua

The traffic in wild animals pervades the Nicaraguan society. As one drives along a highway, parrots and macaws are sold alongside monkeys, armadillos, iguanas and virtually any other animal that can be made a pet or eaten. The pet trade in wild animals affects the populations of many wild animals which have gone extinct in large areas of the country. We dedicate this blog entry to the wild animals who are bought and sold illegally.

The Yellow-naped Amazon (Amazona auropalliata) in the foreground is protected but, nonetheless, is more easily found tied to a stick or in a cage than in the forest. The bird in the background, an Orange-fronted Parakeet (Aratinga canicularis), has been dyed to change its appearance by these traffickers. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
The Yellow-naped Amazon, like many of its relatives, is a very social bird, residing in colonies of up to a few dozen individuals. Its range is the tropical dry forest along the Pacific coast, from Oaxaca in Mexico to northwestern Costa Rica. The soft vocalizations and great capacity to learn make this bird a highly prized pet. Its range, furthermore, has been highly impacted by man, leaving the remaining population with small populations at great risk of capture. The Yellow-naped Amazon population in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is very small, with only a few individuals and a single nest documented to date. 

Nicaraguans actively hunt and eat armadillos. Photo by Ron Reagh.
The nine-banded armadillo is common in Nicaragua, and is not protected from hunting in Nicaragua. We picture it here to show how hunters market their products daily along the highways of Nicaragua, whether legal or not. In fact, marketing wild animals is not permitted, even when they are hunted legally. Next to these armadillos, seen on the Managua-Leon "new" highway, there were numerous iguanas for sale.
Roadside armadillo sale. Photo by Ron Reagh. 
Three species of monkeys are found in Nicaragua. The most charismatic of them is the Nicaraguan spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi geoffroyi), listed as Critically Endangered. Throughout the Pacific region of Nicaragua, spider monkeys are rare or completely extirpated. Nonetheless, some people seek spider monkeys as pets-among the most important reasons for their sad situation in the wild. The pet trade is driving the species into local extinction throughout the Pacific region of the Nicaragua. And the monkeys in captivity are placed in chain-link cages or on chains, like the poor monkey below. This is a wild animal, not a pet, and it should be free to live and die in the trees, not on a chain, dependent upon man for every aspect of his life.
pet trade
This sad Nicaraguan spider monkey is confined to a leash on wire suspended between two trees on the property of some wealthy owner of one of the Isletas near Granada. 

pet trade
A juvenile Nicaraguan spider monkey sulks in its cage in El Coche Cafe in Managua. 
What can you, an ordinary Nicaraguan or visitor to this beautiful country, do? Here are some suggestions.

1. Do you know of any illegal traffic in wild animals in Nicaragua? Please let us know at FUNDECI/GAIA. We will protect your identity, confirm and document the situation, and provide the information to the Nicaraguan Police and the Ministry for Natural Resources and the Environment. 

2. NEVER purchase wild animals for sale. If you are concerned about the welfare of a wild animal in someone's custody, let that person know that a law may be getting broken. By giving traffickers money, you perpetuate the illegal business, thereby endangering even more animals by fortifying their market chain. By calling them out, they and others around you are emboldened to defend Nicaragua's natural heritage against the dealers in wild animals.

3. Discuss the issue with your friends in Nicaragua. Sharing information and opinions is healthy and leads to better-informed decisions among the entire public. Many well-meaning people participate in the illegal traffic in wild animals in Nicaragua without thinking they have done anything wrong or illegal. Let them know you don't approve and they will consider your opinion. 
Click on the "escudo" to contact us. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reptiles in the food chain: Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve

The wildlife of Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve includes many species of reptiles. Our volunteer Trolls Hummelgren documented two reptiles in a life-and-death struggle, as a brown vine snake, Oxybelis aeneus, bit and held tightly to a rosebelly lizard, Sceloporus variabilis

wildlife photography Nicaragua

wildlife photography

The lizard bit back, and eventually, the snake released its grip. Both scampered off and out of sight, so we don't know if the venom eventually caught up with the lizard and allowed the snake to catch. Furthermore, the lizard was considerably broader than this snake. Could the snake swallow this? Probably!

wildlife Nicaragua
FUNDECI/GAIA staff discuss the identification of a lizard from Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. Photo by Kolby Kirk.
FUNDECI/GAIA conducts research and population monitoring on several groups of flora and fauna in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve. We have developed a reptile and amphibian list of over twenty species. Wildlife photography opportunities can be found in all seasons.

wildlife photography snake
Conophis lineatus has a firm grip on Ameiva festiva in the garden at Estacion Biologica. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary. 
Would you like to volunteer in conservation of native flora and fauna in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve? There is much to do, so please apply!
wildlife photography Nicaragua
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Friday, March 2, 2012

Saving the planet, one tree at a time: Reforestation II

An important part of our natural forest restoration project in Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve is our tree nursery, or vivero. Here is where seeds turn into seedlings under the watchful eye of Estacion Biologica staff and environmental volunteers. Most (but not all!) trees in the tropical dry forest ecosystem produce seeds during the dry season, between December and May. We gather seeds of native trees in the forest, prepare them, and then plant them in nursery bags in our vivero. Once the rains begin in May, we begin the laborious task of transferring the seedlings to plots where the trees become part of the restored, natural forest.

Lu fills bags in the Vivero Laguna de Apoyo. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.

Reforestation trees are grown in small, plastic bags. In the foreground, milk bags and soft drink bottles are recycled as nursery receptacles for nursery trees. By re-using materials, we reduce waste and we also reduce our costs. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary. 

Maria volunteered in our vivero, saving the earth one tree at a time. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.

reforestation in Nicaragua
Thanks to reforestation volunteers such as Wyatt, the vivero gives us ample trees to  plant in our reforestation plots every year. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary. 
We try to plant trees of all possible species native to Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve, but we usually have some ten to twenty species in a season. A recent inventory showed the following species that went into one of our reforestation plots:

Helequeme                                          Erythrina berteroana
Madero Negro                                    Gliricidia sepium
Caoba                                                 Swietenia humilis
Guapinol                                              Hymenaea courbaril
Sardinillo                                             Tecoma stans
Genizaro                                              Pithecellobium saman
Javillo                                                  Hura crepitans
Guacimo                                              Guazuma ulmifolia
Guanacaste                                          Albizia niopoides
Panama                                               Sterculia apetala
Guarumo                                             Cecropia peltata
Jaboncillo                                            Sapindus saponaria
Anona                                                 Annona reticulata
Pochote                                              Pachira quinata

restoration ecology
Elmer screens the rocks and debris from compost in our vivero. After screening, the composted earth is ready for planting tree seeds. Photo by Wyatt Reed. 
By composting our kitchen waste, we create organically, nutrient-rich soils for the seedlings to develop. Furthermore, we dramatically reduce our waste going to landfill. The compost soils are completely decomposed with only a little attention after less than one year.

tree planting
Seeds from the trees in our reforestation project take a number of forms. Photo by Belen Camino.
Austin participated in our reforestation project as a study-abroad project from Goshen College.
We seek reforestation volunteers year-round. Whether for a week or a year, your contribution would help us keep Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve wild and forested. Please contact us if you are interested in planting trees with us or if you would like to make a financial or in-kind contribution.

Milk bags are given another life as reforestation material. Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
After collection, seeds require a number of steps for processing before planting . Photo by Jeffrey McCrary. 
Bountiful seed collections are always welcome! Photo by Jeffrey McCrary.
environmental volunteering
Some seeds do not germinate easily without help. Scratching and soaking are often used to promote germination in tropical seeds. Photo by Giselle Hernandez.
environmental volunteering
We are proud of the efforts of volunteers in reforesting Laguna de Apoyo Nature Reserve.
forest restoration
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