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Jewels of the Caribbean

3 species of Poison-dart frog occur in this area;   P. lugubris, D. auratus, O. pumilio. The last 2 species, commonly known as the Green and Black Dart Frog & the Strawberry Dart Frog, both occur together here. The Strawberry dart frogs from this area are the slightly less bright but completely red form (pictured). Here is a short clip just done showing both species. 

The Dirty Dozen

Costa Rica is a fabulous place, but there are many environmental problems that are having a catastrophic effect on the wildlife here. Following my blog, you will have seen some of the amazing creatures that live here. However, whether a frog or a sloth, the health of many creatures is being seriously compromised by the direct actions of  humans.

Here in the Caribbean lowlands it makes my heart sink when I see the low-flying, crop-spraying, light aircraft that come over. This area is where all the banana and pineapple plantation are, and they stretch for miles. The fruit is grown in blue plastic bags (pictured) to partially protect them from the massive levels of extremely hazardous pesticides sprayed overhead. Some of these pesticides, collectively known as ‘The Dirty Dozen’, cause many human deaths and widespread environmental damage every year. These have been completely banned in other countries, such as the US and Europe (Where the multi-national companies responsible are based), yet the Dirty Dozen are still widely used in many developing countries, including Costa Rica. It sickens me to the core.

When these planes and helicopters come over, which is frequent, they spray everything, including you if you are outside. The sticky, acutely toxic, pesticides they use is extremely difficult to even get off your car windscreen. Imagine what effects is has on you if you were a frog sat on a leaf if you absorb things directly through your skin, as all amphibians do – or a sloth that is eating that leaf. The people who work for the company are even accommodated in the centre of the growing, and sprayed areas. The lack of protective equipment, safety training, and medical services makes the impact on the people in these areas even more devastating.

One of the ex-workers for one such company tells me of mass deformities and deaths of animals, and the fact that many workers become very ill or quickly sterile. It’s a terrible situation, and one that doesn’t just affect the areas where the spraying takes place. The acutely toxic pesticides used, that are notable in their longevity and toxicity to humans and animals,  are also known for their ability to be transported through the atmosphere. Not just by wind drift, but by literally being taken up into the clouds and rained down in other areas. In Costa Rica, traces of the hugely dangerous pesticides used in the Caribbean lowlands have been found in the highlands, such as at Monteverde. No wonder the frogs are becoming extinct there!

Next time you buy perfect looking bananas from the supermarket perhaps spare a thought of what it has cost to produce them that way.

For more information on this devastating problem and to find out what you can do to help please see: Pesticide Action Network

Golden Moments

Eyelash Viper, Bothriechis schlegelii

Herpetologists into snakes working in this area have a different idea for the definition of ‘Costa Rica’ (which mean’s the ‘Gold’ Coast’) for this is the area where the Golden Eyelash Viper is most abundant. These beautiful snakes can be seen almost every day if you go looking for them (and sometimes even if you don’t!), they are that common here if you know where to look.

I have seen 2 in the last 2 days. It is always a very special moment when you see one, and that is something that never wears off, however many you have seen before.  These amazing looking snakes are totally arboreal and normally sit motionless on vegetation and on branches, waiting for unsuspecting prey. Adults can strike so fast they can literally snatch a hummingbird mid flight. They have a pair of sensitive heat-sensing pits which helps them to detect prey that is warm-blooded, and excellent vision for them to catch prey that isn’t.  Here is a clip of the one found yesterday:



Rebecca’s placement

Manchester University zoology students all get the option to take year out from their course to get some related experience. This can prove to be invaluable for many and can really help confirm their career direction. As part of their placement they must also conduct a related study and this is something that contributes to their degree. Rebecca Cliffe has been chosen to be the first of our students to be placed at Aviarios, and apart from providing her with a wonderful once in a lifetime experience, we hope her project will help support the aims of this superb facility.

Read all about Becky Cliffe’s placement

Student Experience at FLS Manchester


Aviarios Del Caribe

Sunbathing Frogs and Sloths

See another video of Rebecca with baby sloths

To follow her blog please Click Here.

Aviarios del Caribe

Too cool for School - Rebecca testing new temperature measuring kit

At the moment I am staying at Aviarios sloth sanctuary on the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, where I am supporting Rebecca Cliffe, one of our zoology students. Rebecca is on a year-long placement conducting research on the metabolic rate of sloths in relation to temperature and activity. Unlike many other mammals, a sloth’s thermoregulation is very similar to that of amphibians and reptiles, in that they rely heavily on the temperature of their immediate environment. Although I am supervising the project, it has been made possible due a special device developed by Dr Rory Wilson from Swansea University.  It’s called the daily diary , and using it Rebecca is able to accurately measure the sloth’s activity – literally every second!

A one armed sloth recuperating at Aviarios

I have been coming to Aviarios since the very first time I visited Costa Rica, some 14 years ago, and the owners have become extremely good friends of mine. It is always a pleasure to witness how the sanctuary is going from strength to strength. I think sloths are just wonderful creatures and the more I find out about them the more captivated I become with them. Below are some links to video clips I made last year, but if anyone would like to have another made especially for them in answer to a question, please just let me know and I would be very happy to oblige.

Read all about Becky Cliffe’s placement

Student Experience at FLS Manchester


Watch a video of Rebecca with baby sloths

Watch an introductory video to Aviarios

Watch Adult sloths at Aviarios

Watch orphaned sloths at Aviarios

Watch sunbathing Frogs and Sloths

Where eagles dare..

Today it was time for me to leave the Turrialtico, but before I left, I just sat and took in the moment..

A beautiful large eagle circled on the updraft in front of me as I looked out across the sunlit valley. How beautiful it soared, with wings outstretched, without effort.

Someone once asked me what animal I would be if I could choose, a frog perhaps? the answer was no, an Eagle. To soar like an eagle, as free as a bird. But what must it be like to be a fledgling eagle chick, when the time comes to leave the nest, to take a fateful drop from the nest or mountain ledge so high, without ever having flown before, to risk death…Would you be an eagle?

In the words of a music artist I am a fan of ‘In a world full of people only some want to fly – isn’t that Crazy!?

Above cloud level (cloud 9)

I find I can only stay in the city for so long, especially San Jose, so after acquiring my relevant research permits for the trip, it was time to head out towards the mountainous region that lies half way to the coast. Negotiating the roads of the capital and its surrounding townships at night can be a daunting experience, it’s no holds barred, which is maybe good with my driving 🙂

The Central Highlands and the small town of Turrialba is nestled in the mountains half way between San Jose and the Caribbean. It’s a favourite place of mine, and the little mountain lodge perched high on the mountain above it even more so. Arriving in darkness, above a low cloud, to the twinkling of the stars above and the lights of Turrialba below me, it was time to sample my favourite Costa Rican drink (a Guaro Sour), before laying my head in one of my favourite resting places.



Bird List for Costa Rica