MY BLOG POSTS OF INTEREST:
During late August and early September 2011 I was extremely lucky to spend 18 days traveling through Eastern Madagascar. I chose the East as this side contains some of the best rainforest in the country and an ideal place to look for many of the species that I have always dreamed of one day seeing in the wild! I tried to find a variety of different species of reptiles and amphibians on this trip, but also some of the unique mammals that have adapted to live on this Island, the lemurs! In this post I hope to share with you a variety of different species and habitats that I found along the way and I hope you enjoy reading about it and seeing some of my pictures and videos!
Below is a new video showing young Mossy geckos, my favorite gecko, that hatched in the Museum’s Vivarium on the 26th May, 2011
So, I’m back from my 2 week trip to Costa Rica, which has felt more like I’ve been away for a month! It’s good to be back at work and to see that all the animals have been well looked after whilst I have been away. As Andrew mentioned in his previous post, the area that I travelled to was the south pacific coast, more specifically, Drake Bay, which is a few hours walk from one of the largest national parks in Costa Rica, Corcovado. This national park is home to a more diverse amount of species than anywhere in Costa Rica, not just reptiles and amphibians but also mammals and birds.
After arriving in the capital San Jose late on New Years Eve, I spent the first few days in the Heredia mountains recovering from the long journey and having a slight panic as to how I was going to make my way to the south pacific and sorting out a place to stay. I decided against the 10 hour bus ride and opted for the 45 minute plane journey, which brought me over the mountains that surround San Jose and gave perfect views of the rainforests that the country is famous for. It got even better as I found myself over the Pacific Ocean, looking out of the window of the small plane I was lucky enough to see a humpback whale with its calf in the clear blue water below. Taking my first steps off the plane, I noticed a small toad hopping by my feet, a good sign I thought. Wasting no time, after checking into my cabin I found myself a guide who could take me into some privately owned rainforest in hope of finding some amphibians. Whilst waiting for nightfall, walking around Drake Bay I couldn’t help but notice how there was animals literally everywhere I looked. Whether it be scarlet macaws flying overhead or green iguanas in the road, life was everywhere, and this was in the populated areas, I couldn’t even imagine what it was going to be like at night in virtually untouched rainforest!
Night soon came and with it the sounds of frogs calling, I was ready for my first experience in the rainforest! Starting by walking up a small river that would lead us up into the forest, within minutes we had found a smokey jungle frog (Leptodactylus pentodactylus) on the riverbank calling. A large species of frog which didn’t seem to mind us taking pictures, it wasn’t long until something else caught my eye as a small tree frog jumped by. Moving on and up into the forest we found animals that you would normally see during the day such as common brown basilisks and anoles asleep on the thick tree branches. A bit more unusual though, and a highlight for me, was a species of amphibian you would normally expect to see during the day, the granular poison dart frog (Oophaga granulifera). We reached an area of dense leaves beside a small stream, it was on these leaves where we found a pair of these tiny poison frogs asleep! Very similar to the strawberry poison dart frog (Oophaga pumilio), this species comes in different colour forms. The specimens from this area that we saw were the red form. Another species we saw a lot of that night congregating around small pools of water was the masked tree frog (Smilisca Phaeota).
The next day whilst sat outside my cabin I spent hours watching birds coming and going from the trees surrounding me. With toucans in the trees in front of me, Scarlet macaws on the right and a seemingly endless variety of finches building nests all over the place, it’s no surprise that the majority of tourists in this area are here to look at the birds. Which seemed to get me a lot of funny looks when the bird watchers in the cabins around me heard that we were going back out that night seeking out snakes, and the more venomous the better! The plan for that night was very similar to the night before but in a different area where the river we were walking up was much bigger. The idea was that we would find snakes close to the waters edge after nightfall, the main target being the infamous Fer-De-Lance (Bothrops Asper). A highly venomous species of pit viper with a particularly bad reputation for being aggressive, although most bites occur from being stepped on accidentally. After navigating our way through the shallower areas of the river we saw many of the amphibian species that we had seen the night before, after about an hour we saw our first snake, a cat eyed snake (Leptodiera sp.) making its way over the rocks next to the waters edge. Most likely hunting the small frogs or even the larger tadpoles in the shallow water. Another half hour up the river and I notice something next to me leap up and into the water, our first Fer-De-Lance! We watched as it swam to the other side of the river and disappeared into the forest, showing that they are not the aggressive snake people make them out to be and that they would rather escape than bite. This was the first of 4 Fer-De-Lance that we found that night, ranging in size from 60 cm to just over a meter long.
Anyone familiar with the work that we do at the museum could probably guess that I’m a huge fan of the genus Agalychnis, and after a failed attempt at finding crocodiles I stumbled upon a large puddle by the side of the road with some very familiar looking tadpoles within it. At various stages of development, some with legs forming and some looking like they had just hatched it was easy to see that these were the tadpoles of the red eyed tree frog (Agalychnis callidryas). So it’s no surprise that that’s where I was that night armed with my torch and camera! Immediately we could hear them calling and soon we spotted a pair in amplexus making their way down a large palm leaf suspended over the water to spawn. It was amazing to see these, being a species that I’ve worked with in captivity for so long, and to be lucky enough to find them breeding was just unbelievable! Further up the road I could hear the call of another leaf frog, Agalychnis spurrelli, and I also found a larger pool of water with what I suspected to be tadpoles of this species but sadly no adults. All the more reason to go back!
With my trip nearing an end there was one last thing on our to do list, venture into Corcovado National Park. Walking through this truly wild and untouched reserve was exhausting! and sadly we didn’t see any reptiles or amphibians that we hadn’t already seen, although we did see a huge Fer-De-Lance sat on a pile of leaves next to a water fall. It’s easy to see how many people don’t notice this species and accidentally step on them as this specimen was easily 1.5 meters long and extremely difficult to spot sat motionless amongst the fallen leaves. Even though we didn’t see much of the herpetofauna we did see groups of spider monkeys, howler monkeys and white faced capuchins along with the usual species of birds, we even saw an agouti when we were nearing the end of the trail. This brings me to our long journey home, back to Manchester and back to work at the Museum! I hope you have enjoyed reading about my trip, feel free to ask any questions!
Me explaining some Monday morning duties in the vivarium:
Here are some video clips I took when I was at Nordens Ark in Sweden last year:
Sweden. Adders being conserved at Norden’s Ark.
Sweden. Mossy frogs on display at Norden’s Ark.
Sweden. Green Toads being conserved at Norden’s Ark.
Sweden. Mountain chicken frogs, Leptodactylus fallax, being conserved at Norden’s Ark.
Sweden. Native reptiles being conserved at Norden’s Ark.