It’s been two months (and change) since I’ve posted – I’ve been spending time either in the great white north, down in Florida working on my thesis, and doing a little herping here and there. I also just finished up the bulk of the writing on my second book, a children’s story about a pack of dogs in the Paraguayan Chaco; and as such I’ve been thinking about Beka and my last trip there in April of 2011, when we went to teach at the New Tribes Mission Ed Camp. This was covered in detail in an issue of Herp Nation magazine, so if you’ve not checked that out please do – http://www.herpnation.com/issues/issue-no-14/?simple_nav_category=issues – not wanting to upstage the paying gig, I’m going to keep the narrative here to a minimum (but throw in a couple of pictures that didn’t make the cut in the HN issue.)
Paraguay; I’ve been in love with the place since going there in 2005. I’ve been to quite an array of countries: Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Germany, Poland, Austria, Peru, Bolvia, Brazil – but none of them are quite as amazing to me as Paraguay. I don’t know if I could quite explain it, except to say that there’s a certain freedom and mystery there that can only come from a country so wild and sparsely population. I say wild, but there’s also a certain sophistication there, probably brought on by the large mennonite population in the Chaco, the northwestern part of the country.
Anyways, all that aside until later. Beka and I arrive in mid-April in Asuncion, the country’s capital city. Within a day I was thrust into my first experience driving an manual transmission and we were off on the Ruta Trans Chaco (Cross Chaco Highway) towards our destination. On the way, there was some mixed feelings of thrill and disappointment, such as with this big guy, an animal I instinctively knew as we passed by, despite never having seen one in the wild before:
Hopefully I’ll turn up a live Yellow Anaconda someday, but it seems this one had got going with the coming of the rains and got nailed on the Trans Chaco; an event I found was not isolated – a little while later we saw this poor guy:
A Tamadua – a species we had at the Zoo I was working at, but our individual wasn’t as blond as this guy. It was a depressing sight for sure. But, arriving in Filadelfia lifted my spirits. Filadelfia (Fili) is an interesting town – there’s a couple of supermarkets and stores, but most of it looks like this:
And stray too far from the central grid and you arrive at places like this:
or the occasional wetland:
In short, my kind of town. Despite the last couple of pictures, the Chaco is often a very dry place – the year previous, in fact, parts of the Chaco had gone 10 months without rain gracing their skies. Beka and I were very fortunate to have arrived during a very wet time. We actually arrived after dark (the previous pictures were taken later) with a light rainfall, so needless to say as soon as we got in and dropped our stuff off at the mission house we were to be staying at, we hopped back in the car and went out frogging. It was a fruitful night, and some of the Chaco’s best made an appearance.
Chacoan Monkey Treefrogs (Phyllomedusa sauvagii) were among the first seen; looking quite out of place crossing the road – they walk rather than hop and look about as odd as any human would walking on all fours:
Interesting color variant; some of these daytime pictures were taken the following day as Beka and I were holding onto a few specimens to show at the Ed Camp:
Granular Toads (Rhinella major) were also out in force:
And these might just be my favorite amphibians of the trip; looking like a gigantic version of our narrowmouth toads, called the Mueller’s Narrowmouth (Dermatonotus muelleri). The local missionary kids called them turtle frogs – an appropriate common name, I’d say, because they looked like little turtles when they walked across the road.
Another “familiar” (but not really familiar) face was this Chaco Frog (Leptodactylus chaquensis), which is a doppelganger of the Leopard frog in the US:
Then there was this Paradox frog (Pseudis paradoxa) – so named because of the fact that they actually shrink when going from larval stages to adulthood (similar to River Frogs in the southeast); they’re also strange because although they look like a Ranid, they’re actually a hylid. Go figure.
The Oven Frogs (Leptodactylus bufonius). Interestingly enough, these guys will often inhabit Vischacha (wild chinchilla) burrows.
Then came some of my favorites – the horned frogs. We saw two species, Ceratophrys cranwelli and Chacophrys pierottii:
The two together, dorsal:
And shot from the front that Beka took:
And, a final find for the night, I thought I escaped Cane Toads (nasty animals!) when I left south Florida. Kind of, but not quite: another doppleganger, Bufo schneideri.
And one final Phyllomedusa for the night, P. azurea:
That’s all for part one folks – stay tuned for part 2 – Defensores Del Chaco and La Princesa.