After two and a half weeks in Ecuador, I have finally returned. Above are photographs of some of the spectacular herps that I encountered. During my trip, we visited four different elevations of Ecuador, and by far the the lowland site in Yasuni National Park, Shiripuno, had the most biodiversity. A camera trap set out 20 m from camp caught an image of a jaguar on the second morning we were there, and macaws, large parrots that usually disappear with human presence, were remarkably common. In the study on predation of poison dart frogs that I was doing with a group, we found that predation on our clay models also decreased with increasing elevation. At the last site, Papallacta, there were only four species of frogs and we didn’t see any of them, although I heard at least one species.
Besides frogs, there were also caecilians present at most of the elevations. Some other members of the group found caecilians at Shiripuno one rainy night. The salamanders of Ecuador are mostly from the Bolitoglossa genus, and are arboreal. It took some adjustment to learn to look for salamanders in the trees rather than in streams or in leaf litter, where they are usually found in the U.S.
The thing that has left the largest impression on me about Ecuador’s reptiles and amphibians is just how little is known about them. Identification is proving to be a real challenge because there is not much information and not many pictures easily available to the public. For many species, contacting an expert is really going to be the best way to ID them. This is why many of the frogs and reptiles in the gallery are not fully identified – any help on identification would be greatly appreciated.
In Ecuador, I learned that conservation is not always as simple as it seems. Because of the poverty in many areas and the lack of government enforcement in protecting National Parks in Ecuador, conservation efforts are not as effective. The only surefire way of conserving an area is to buy it and then protect it yourself. Ecotourism among the environmentally conscious is becoming more popular as an alternative way of gaining income that allows for conservation rather than depletion of resources. At least two of the four places we visited (Shiripuno and Wild Sumaco) were focused on attracting ecotourism as their primary source of revenue.
I would love to answer any questions that you, the reader, might have about my trip or about Ecuador or traveling abroad in general. As always, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment on this post.