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Toads and Tapirs

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Fantastic variety of epiphytes within the cloud forest © Franziska Elsner-Gearing

I’m currently in Costa Rica teaching on the University of Manchester field course, introducing students to the amazing variety of flora and fauna that the rainforests here have to offer. Whilst here I have also taken the opportunity to conduct some field eDNA sampling, contributing to a collaborative project between Manchester Museum, the University of Salford, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica and several other national and international researchers and institutions.

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Moss covered trees lining the track to our destination © Franziska Elsner-Gearing

This exciting technique formed the basis of my master’s degree dissertation project, and it is great to be able to build upon that work to begin applying it towards conservation interventions in the field. Working alongside Juan, Franziska, Lilliana and Vivienne we set off from San Jose, up into the moss covered mountains of the Braulio Carrillo national park, over 2,000 meters above sea level.

This is the home of many rare and elusive species, including the critically endangered Holdridge’s toad (Incilius holdridgei), a species that Juan rediscovered (from presumed extinction) in 2008 and has been monitoring ever since.

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Hard at work hunting for new ponds © Liliana Piedra Castro

We were aiming to sample as many ponds as possible throughout the area to possibly identify any additional remaining populations that might have so far evaded detection. What is immediately evident once you are in the habitat is that the ponds are actually what I would describe as puddles, formed amongst tangled tree roots, leaf litter and moss that covers the entire forest floor. They are also rare, as most rainfall is absorbed into the soil/moss or runs off into streams, so this represents a significant problem for this rare species, already threatened by the chytrid fungus which thrives within this high altitude habitat.

Thankfully we did manage to find a number of ponds to sample which we aim to include in a wider project coming later this year. The results of which will hopefully help direct conservation interventions for a number of rare species of frogs and toads that call these mountains home.

Excitingly we also encountered many signs of a much larger but equally secretive species, Baird’s tapir (Tapirus bairdii), Central America’s largest species of mammal!

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Talking Tapirs                                                Reaseheath realised

 

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