Costa Rica – Jaguar Conservation

Assist in the protection of the elusive jaguar in one of the only areas where jaguars are known to prey on adult sea turtles

Live and work in the heart of Costa Rica’s Tortuguero National Park, whilst assisting the reserve management, the Costa Rican government, and organisations like Coastal Jaguar Conservation and Panthera with contributing toward jaguar research and conservation.

During your stay, you will not only contribute to the preservation of the elusive jaguar, but you will join a team contributing to the development and management of long-term wildlife conservation efforts along Central America’s Caribbean coast.

Relay data to the Costa Rican government and other prominent conservation organisations, our team aids the conservation effort through monitoring and tracking on Costa Rica’s beautiful Caribbean coast in the Tortuguero National Park.

Gain a holistic understanding of the Costa Rican rainforest and its ecosystem by conducting important research on turtles (seasonal) and aquatic birds. You will receive additional training across a wide variety of subjects and gain a plethora of skills that will help you further your ability to operate professionally in the field.


  • Live and work at a research station in the middle of a Costa Rican national park.
  • Visit an incredibly jaguar-dense area and one of the only locations in the world where jaguars are known to prey on adult sea turtles.
  • Contribute to jaguar research by setting up and checking camera traps in the rainforest.
  • Explore the rainforest by canoe and walk the pristine Caribbean beaches.
  • Learn biodiversity survey techniques and gain real field experience
  • Undertake turtle nesting surveys and monitor nesting sites during turtle nesting season
  • The area where we work on is closed to tourism, we are the only people allowed to live there due to the nature of the research we do

Carrying out the programs activities on the beaches and forests in the area, you will live on our base at Jalova.

With Tortuguero’s amazing scenery, incredible beaches and through dawn patrols, spectacular sunrises as the backdrop, you will hone your research skills collecting important data.

Through the processing, analysis, and recording of data, you will also get to grips with the technical aspects of field based research.

You should also expect to be involved in further research projects according to the requirements on the ground at any time.

Due to the fact that we are working in a National Park, we need to have a special scientific permit to conduct research so you will be asked for some papers to be able to process it. It is a fairly simple process.

  • Jaguar dynamics and population studies
  • Using camera traps to identify individual jaguars present in the Jalova area and their feeding behaviours in relation to marine turtles
  • We are also collecting Jaguar scats (faeces) for feeding and genetic studies.
  • Volunteers will also take part in some of the other surveys carried out on base; this is dependent on the time of the year; but may include marine turtle, canal/shore bird, or amphibian monitoring, or general biodiversity/incidental sighting surveys, but will have priority in the Jaguar surveys
  • Volunteers get training on all species and surveys, so they go out on Forest biodiversity, birds, incidentals and turtle surveys.

Typical Day

Mornings start early at  5/6am, you will do your 1st survey from 6-10am before taking a break for lunch. Your 2nd survey will be from 1-4pm and then return back to base for dinner.
Night time turtle patrols are 8/9pm-2am (you would have the morning off the following day if you ares scheduled on this patrol!). You can expect to head out on 2 surveys per day.

Volunteers get training on all species and surveys.

Free Time:

If you aren’t scheduled for a night time patrol, evenings will be free to relax and reflect on the days sightings. Project work is 5-6 days a week.


Since the 1950’s the population of Jaguars within the Americas has plummeted from over 400,000 to an estimated 14,000 now.

Habitat and food source degradation as a result of human activity are the major threats to jaguar populations. Through the correlation of jaguar prey species, jaguar feeding behaviour and population numbers, this project helps the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment to develop well rounded and consistent conservation policies.

All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs

  • Increase scientific knowledge of Tortuguero National Park.
  • Increase awareness of GVI Jalova projects and the ecological value of the Tortuguero National Park.
  • Build local capacity to support long-term conservation of biodiversity and sustainable community development in Costa Rica.
  • Continue to minimize our environmental impact on Tortuguero National Park and raise awareness of environmental issues amongst volunteers and visitors.

Volunteering with us not only allows you to participate on programs assisting disadvantaged communities or endangered ecosystems but it also offers wonderful opportunities to travel in the local area in your down time or further afield either before or after your program. Many decide to travel after volunteering, solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program.

Our long term field staff are a great source of advice and are here to help you make the most of your time abroad. Remember to ask about discounts on local activities and side trips through your association with our program partners. Our Jalova field teams have helped us put together the following information on trips and travel options in Costa Rica!

You will be based at the research station within the National Park, located 1 hour by motorboat from the nearest town of Tortuguero, and working on the surrounding canals, rivers, forest, beaches and in the nearby communities. Travel around the local area is limited and dependent on expedition staff and water taxi services.

Further Travelling Opportunities

Due to the remoteness of base, we offer a long weekend (3 free days) every 4 weeks, so people can travel around Costa Rica at the start of project or once a month, be sure to budget for it if you would like to visit more places in Costa Rica. Likewise, there is a close by restaurant, and volunteers have the option of ordering fried chicken and sodas every Friday at your own expense, cost is between 6 to 10USD. Before and after your program you could explore the rest of Costa Rica, or travel onwards throughout Latin America. Buses are cheap but basic, and regional flights are relatively affordable. With so much culture and adventure it’s sometimes hard to know where to start – the possibilities are endless!

  • 24-hour emergency phone
  • 24-hour in-country support
  • Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
  • Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
  • All necessary project equipment and materials
  • All necessary project training by experienced staff
  • Location orientation
  • Long term experienced staff
  • Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)
  • Safe and basic accommodations (usually shared)
  • Welcome meeting
Costa Rica – Jaguar Conservation


Start Dates:
Specific Saturdays

2 – 12 weeks



Costa Rica Jaguars
2 WEEKS $2,085
4 WEEKS $2,865
6 WEEKS $3,645


Kim Packard (Australia)

It’s every big cat lovers dream to be able to capture a glimpse of the elusive jaguar, and being here gets you so close to realizing that dream. The excitement of setting up jag cams, being able to ID these cats and witness new behaviours is truly addictive. Knowing these amazing cats are thriving here gives hope for future conservation.