Initially we intended to go to Santa Rosa de la Yunga to see the location of the first mysterious population. Manuel and I have a photo of the two of us from about 12 years ago standing upon the famous cliff, with the mighty Maranon in the background. The photo captures fairly well how we felt at the time, as though we were standing at the edge of the world, or maybe on top of it. At the time that picture was taken, the thought of having a wife, let alone a child seemed out of the realm of possibility. So here we were, 12 years on, with the unforeseen good fortune of having young families of our own, and what better way we thought of showing them our appreciation than enlisting them in a long 12 hour (one way) drive to see a frog that lives on a cliff. In all seriousness, Excidobates mysteriosus is special beyond words, a frog worthy of being who revered and cherished by nature enthusiasts of any kind, however that is material all to be covered in a forthcoming lengthy blog entry. I really wanted to take the pilgrimage to this spectacular location so that Manuel and I could retake the photo we took about twelve years ago, this time with our wives and kids, and the several extra pounds we carry around nowadays. Alas, fate intervened and the rice growers in protest to dropping rice prices had the roads closed in several locations beyond Moyobamba. In retrospect this probably was a blessing in disguise and saved Manuel and I from the likelihood of having to admit failure in the face of a developing mutiny somewhere in range of the Alto Mayo. Jackie and Johanna were good sports even for entertaining the idea of such a trek with three kids and one camionetta. So, plan B, cook the family in the scorching sun on a cloudless day heading towards Yurimaguas! Coincidentally it happened to be world frog day as we headed through the lowland expanses beyond Pongo de Caynarachi towards Yurimaguas. We were heading to revisit the home of the true nominal form of Ranitomeya fantastica. The drive from Pongo to Yurimaguas is one any person looking to get a glimpse at what is really driving the loss of rainforest and biodiversity should take. The drive is now almost uninterrupted oil palm plantation or cattle pasture. As we veered off the main road to head toward the site, we were surprised at the growth of plantations in the area and the amount of recently sprayed (with herbicide) pasture which was surely being prepped for planting of still more Palma africana. We finally did locate the forest we were familiar with, albeit a little further back from the road than we remembered. Thankfully we easily found 4 fantastica within the first 15 minutes in the forest. I think this is a record of some sort for ever finding this many fantastica. I also found a developing clutch of fantastica eggs in the leaf little while trying to locate a male frog that had eluded me, they are so damn fast and spastic in their movements.
During this excitement, Jackie and Sira yelled that they had found a big snail.
Much to my amazement it was the impressive and elusive Corona regina, a species of land snail I had been hoping to find for many years.
The time in the forest, though brief was fruitful, and I was proud of the children for slugging it out in the heat and humidity for as long as they did. While it was not myseriousus, the children got to see another legendary frog, in situ before they were six. (Somewhere, in an alternate reality, I know that my five year old self is insanely jealous of these kids in this reality).
It was nice to see these fantastica again and to see that they are still, by all appearances doing well. There is still, for now a great deal of forest left with which this morph likely ranges into. For hobbyists working with this species, I am sure you do not need me to tell you what a treasure this frog truly is, so please enjoy and cherish them, and keep them well established in captivity.
Following this brief foray into this historic locale, we completed not only my sunburn, but the trek to Yurimaguas. After a couple of glasses of much needed fresh cold juice, and a great lunch in town, we headed back towards Tarapoto. The kids were soon asleep and so were the women, and Manuel and I drove back completely content.