The Coiba BioBlitz
Mammals on a cat-free island
Coiba National park is a group of islands in the Pacific ocean, off the southern shore of Panama, covered with dense tropical forest. The islands are uninhabited by people since the abandonment of the penitentiary colony in 2004, and are home to several endemic (sub)species, including the Coiba Island howler monkey, the Coiba agouti, the Coiba Island white-tailed deer. As far as known, the islands are free of mammalian predators.
During early 2015, we used camera traps to survey the terrestrial mammals on the smaller island Jicaron, further from the shore, the main island of Coiba, the island of Canales de Tierra, close to the shore and the mainland. The camera trapping was part of a Bioblitz expedition organized by Christian Ziegler and colleagues, featured in a special issue of Tropicos, the magazine of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The expeditions involved boat rides across the ocean, camping at beaches, and heavy bush whacking to reach the camera-trap points.
The first goal of our survey was to determine the composition of the mammal community in these four locations and to compare the behaviors, and verify whether predators were really absent on Coiba and Jicaron (now confirmed). The second goal was to compare the behavior of mammals between predator-free Coiba and the mainland, in particular the frequency at which Capuchin monkeys forage on the ground, and the frequency at which agoutis and other diurnal prey species forage at night.