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Sunday, 16 November 2008

Cataloging the Biodiversity of Reptiles and Amphibians in Western Ecuador - Page 5

Written by Stephen J. Bugaj
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It wasn’t quite 9:30 in the morning and I was already wringing wet with perspiration. As we trudged up the steep slope of the mountain, the mud made my footing both arduous and precarious. Moreover, my left insole had an industrial-grade bruise from hiking several days across rocks and hardened mud, and I had several blisters on both feet.

Our sanitary conditions were at an absolute minimum. We forgot entirely about showers - even cold showers. The water we had from our downhill stream was heavily chlorinated before we dared to drink it. Toilet facilities were typically at a minimum of 20 meters from the site. Urination did not pose a problem; however, I decided to pop two Imodium, "tighten-up" and not engage in this aspect of elimination until a later date. It wasn’t the snakes that concerned me – it was the myriad of tarantulas, scorpions, conga ants, leaf cutter ants, whip scorpions, harlequin beetles, and a host of fuzzy, and psychedelically-colored caterpillars that we were admonished not to touch. I kept envisioning myself dropping my drawers, squatting down and getting stung by a scorpion.

Carlos proved to be an outstanding cook. He consistently served up amazing concoctions of rice, fish, chicken, peppers, onions and beans - all liberally doused with an Ecuadorian variant of Tabasco sauce - which we engulfed ravenously! On one occasion, Carlos treated us to some “moonshine” – very raw rum colored with coca leaves – good for the digestion, and excellent for elevating our dampened spirits (no pun intended).

We were not as successful in Pata de Pajaro as we had been at La Perla. The temperature dropped into the lower 60’s after dark, which may have been the reason we saw little in the way of herpetofauna. However, on our third night out, we captured an amphibian that was rarely observed, even by Paul, and never before by Brian, Tim or me. Cataloging the Biodiversity of Reptiles and Amphibians in Western Ecuador, Reptile and Amphibian Ecology International, RAEI, study herptiles, reptiles Ecuador, amphibian Ecuador, herps, Ecuador, Bosque La Protector La Perla, Pata de Pajaro, Cloud Forest, TRANSECT, Stephen J. BugajThis was a caecilian, a worm-like legless creature of approximately two feet in length. This made up for our missing out on the amphisbaenan, and was the highlight of the entire trip for us.

On a very sad note, the day before we left Pata de Pajaro, we hiked out to the end of a mountain ridge where we had an unobstructed bird’s eye view of the deforestation in this part of the country. The cloud forest’s rapid rate of destruction is more than tragic – catastrophic might be a better adjective to describe what we saw. We took lots of pictures…


The remaining two days were anticlimactic. We hiked down the mountain, hitched a ride with a local farmer to Pedernales, and then took a bus to Punta de Prieta, a resort on the Pacific Ocean. While others swam and sunbathed, I lay in my bed and licked my wounds! We then rode back via bus to Quito, and after an overnight stay, we caught a flight back to the States.

All in all, it was an outstanding experience, and one I’ll never forget - not only for the friendships, excitement, and potential contribution to environmentalism, ecology, and herpetology – Paul’s final analysis of the data may prove to indicate the extended range of certain species, as well as something as yet to be identified – time will tell. Hopefully, our efforts may have an influence on the current powers that be in Ecuador to halt the wholesale destruction of its forests. Wish us (and more importantly, the people of Ecuador) luck!

© Stephen J. Bugaj

(Page 5 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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