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miércoles, 13 de noviembre de 2013

Encarnacion and Tirol

This past week Greg and I spent a few days in southern Paraguay in the city of Encarnaciόn. The reason for our trip was to visit Paul Smith, PLT’s scientific co-ordinator and founder of Fauna Paraguay. We had collected a few interesting species of frogs at Laguna Blanca that needed DNA analysis to determine their species status. While we were in the area we also wanted to explore the city and visit a nearby large tract of near pristine Atlantic Forest at Hotel Tirol. Greg is our new butterfly intern at RNLB. He is full of enthusiasm and has an outstanding gift to draw illustrations of wildlife from photographs. He decided that it would be great to join me on the trip to firstly meet Paul, and secondly to try find some interesting wildlife at Hotel Tirol. Encarnaciόn is a growing city that is on the north shore of the mighty Rio Parana. This is a beautiful river that unfortunately was dammed in the past, destroying a lot of biodiversity. Never the less the city is moving forward and has a lot going for it. The recent development of a promenade and beach is a major attraction, as well as some fine dining and amazing architecture. Once a year in February the city holds a major carnival that attracts people from all over the world. The first two days were spent with Paul. After analysing our frogs with a local Argentinian professor, we decided on a whim to explore a religious sanctuary on the east of the city. The sanctuary has some great views over the river to the Argentinian side. It was a very warm afternoon so wildlife was not plentiful. We did manage however to see lots of Eastern Collared Spiny Lizard (Tropidurus torquatus) on the walls, and a few birds including Hook-billed Kite, Dark-billed Cuckoo and Rufous Gnateater. That evening we were taken to a local marsh to try and find some frogs. The marsh was unfortunately polluted, but even so two species of adaptable frogs called from the reed beds. We watched males of the Dwarf Tree Frog (Dendropsophus nanus) and Purple-barred Tree Frog (Hypsiboas raniceps) trying to attract nearby females. It’s a sad story though knowing what the eventual outcome for this population will be. After getting our fill of the city, it was time to visit Hotel Tirol. Paul accompanied us for a few hours on our first evening. Our main target was to find and photograph the Schmidt’s Stream Frog (Crossodactylus schmidti). This species is only known from a small, fast flowing stream at this one site in Paraguay. We wasted no time, signed into our room, put our bags down and headed for the valley. We were very determined to find this species, and our efforts paid off when three were found within the first hour. These frogs are very sensitive to change. Without the fast flowing, clear water they would have disappeared a long time ago. The next day we spent time searching the grounds around the hotel. There were plenty of butterflies out that kept both of us occupied for hours. We lifted a log along one of the many well defined paths to find a very rare worm lizard (Amphisbaena darwinii) lying beneath it. These worm lizards spend most of their lives beneath the ground surface only getting pushed up after heavy rains. We spent time on the stream trying to find more Schmidt’s Stream Frog’s with no success but we did happen to come across a Sepia Snake (Thamnodynastes strigatus) probably also hunting for the frog that was eluding us. The following morning it was time to pack our bags and prepare for the long journey back home to Laguna Blanca. While waiting for the bus outside the hotel entrance, I saw a teenager across the road throwing a stone into the grass. I instantly ran towards him to see what the boy had found. To my surprise he picked up a huge Black Tegu lizard (Tupinambis merianae) and threw it onto the road. The lizard was badly wounded from the rock, but still tried to get away. I watched as one of my beloved reptiles got kicked continuously and then put under the boy’s bike to finish him off. The whole time the boy had a smile on his face, he seemed proud of his achievement. He tied the Tegu onto the back of his bike and went to show some nearby people that congratulated him. Unfortunately this ioccurs here in Paraguay and in a lot of other places around the world. Many wildlife populations have dropped significantly because of habitat destruction, pollution, overhunting and needless killing. I am not sure what the teenager did with his prize, but it is a scary thought knowing that the dwindling populations of wildlife within the country lie in the hands of youngsters like this. Para La Tierra’s mission is to protect threatened habitats and its inhabitants. We are working hard to try to educate the future generation about the plight of nature and how we can try conserve it in the interest of the local people. Come join us to help us understand this beautiful country that much more so we can make Paraguay a better place for the future. Until next time. JP

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