Cusuco National Park has a fantastic diversity of bats that have adapted to the incredibly complex landscape; the huge variation in elevation, temperature and rainfall here has resulted in a wide range of habitats, which in turn support a highly speciose bat community. Bat mist-net surveys in the Park have been conducted between June and August annually since 2006, resulting in the detection of over 60 species, which include insectivores, nectarivores, frugivores, carnivores and sanguivores. As well as the core mist netting surveys, abiotic data has also been collected on lunar phase, precipitation and temperature, which can also be correlated with the large-scale habitat structure data collected by the habitat survey teams working in the Park. Students joining this project can utilise these datasets to address a wide range of ecological questions relating to the bat community of Cusuco National Park. Such questions could examine how habitat type or altitudinal variables affect bat abundance and diversity on a community scale, or could focus on the effect of these variables on specific feeding guilds.
The forests of Central America are some of the most biologically diverse forests in the world, partly because they are the meeting point of two great faunas – those from North America and those from South America which had evolved separately. Many of these ecosystems have been badly degraded but there is a proposal to join currently discontinuous areas of forest into a continuous Mesoamerican forest corridor running from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico (where there are other Opwall teams) to Panama. Part of this corridor will encompass the cloud forests of Cusuco National Park in Honduras – a site rich in endemics and endangered species yet threatened by unchecked illegal deforestation.
The Opwall survey teams have been working in Cusuco since 2003 and the data produced has resulted in the Park being listed as one of the top 50 most irreplaceable protected areas in the world (based on a review of 173,000 sites worldwide). As well as underlining the biological value of Cusuco, the datasets collected by the Opwall teams are also being used to make an application for funding through Natural Forest Standard (NFS). This will allow carbon credits from the Park to be issued, which can then be sold to multinational companies wishing to offset their carbon emissions and at the same time help protect biodiversity. Funding obtained in this way will then be used to manage and protect the park and the many unique species it supports.
In the cloud forest of Cusuco National Park it can get warm in open areas (temperatures up to 20 degrees Celsius) but much cooler in the shade of the forest. Overnight the temperature can drop below 10 degrees Celsius at higher altitudes. It rarely rains in the morning but it regularly rains late in the afternoon and overnight.
Fitness level required
Medium – High. You will need to hike from camp to camp for up to 5 hours over steep terrain with your backpack.
Facilities in Cusuco are very basic (tents, hammocks, river showers, basic trench toilets). There is no cell phone signal in Cusuco National Park and very limited satellite internet available through a communal laptop at Base Camp.