miércoles, 9 de diciembre de 2009

good news and bad news

Our last time in Titicaca lake we went with Patricia and Teresa our two herpetologist colleagues that were a great support for our work and they enjoyed the snorkel in the lake looking for the Titicaca lake frog Telmatobius culeus. Unfortunately this time our team from the local community could not join us in the snorkel but they were always supporting us from the boat next to us.
This time we did several diurnal and nocturnal transects, good news and bad news…

First day in one diurnal transect we found several individuals in the lake, and some of them in amplexus, that means that they are breeding this season, unfortunately we could not find the eggs, probably we need to look for more carefully. During the night was very cold but also very interesting because we found several individuals and a big female that was the biggest one that I saw until now. Also we found very interesting data that we will publish soon in some scientific papers.

The second day it was amazing one day with several impressions, first the unbelievable landscape and underwater view, but followed by alarming findings that pushed down our happiness. Our first individual we found in that transect was a juvenile, after some pictures we realized that was dead in the bottom of the lake, we collected this one, second individual, also a dead one, but this time bigger, third one also a big dead frog almost decomposed. After about 50 minutes we found 18 dead frogs of different size, decomposing states and just four frogs that were ok, some of our last individuals that we found I thought it was a dead individual because like you can see in the picture the left leg it was with a very big open wound where you can see the bone of the toes. We collected this individual and it seems that is not a mechanical wound seems to be something that is eating the skin and flesh from outside, we also found a lot of leeches in the body that we took out, we wanted to take alive this individual but unfortunately this individual died.

That night we had a lot of rain and we went out to record the frogs calling and we obtained some good recordings that soon will be published and also we found some other species of frogs on the land that we took chytrid samples to see what is happening in this area. Next day the water it was very cold and also with no too much visibility and it was no possible to carry out our transects, so we dedicated this day to teach our new members of the team how to snorkel and to develop the transects.
After those days in the lake, now we come back to the city with a lot questions and worried about the situation, because we never saw that number of dead animals, maximum we found before were 5, but also can be that now we are using a different method or just it is the decomposition time in the area is very long, but also if this is the situation, to find to many individuals like we found means that something is happening there, what it is?? We don’t know yet, we don't want to give answers yet, but we need to do more research and for that we will need more support from people and institutions, we are very enthusiastic because more people are in our team and with Patricia and Teresa working with us is a big difference that will improve the work.

We also hope that soon we will publish our findings that can be available to more people and we will keep updating this blog and soon the new website of the project.

I would like to thank all of you people that are emailing me and giving some words of support, this really help us to keep working in this project even that we know that is a very hard work.
Also the big support from the local community that always is supporting us and now we are planning several things with them to protect the species and also to give them and option to improve their live quality protecting the species.
Thank you very much.

sábado, 5 de diciembre de 2009

Our adventure in Ayopaya

This time we went to an unknown area of the department of Cochabamba, Ayopaya province, an area that was not explored yet, especially amphibians and reptiles. We went to the dry valleys and Puna with some patches of cloud forest. Although we did not find many amphibians, we found interesting aspects. The forest structure of the area is very interesting because you can find in one slope a mountain cloud forest and in the other slope in the same valley an interandean dry forest; this situation can be reflected in a composition of animals that belongs to a completely different ecosystem groups. Unfortunately we could not find many species of frogs due to the rainy season that did not start yet, a very important factor in this kind of dry forest.

here we can see the mountain dry valleys of the area

Our trip was an adventure, due to the bad maintenance of the roads,  first we found some problems on the road, some very slippery and muddy areas where we had to push the car and some others that we had to go out from the car to see if we had enough space for a car. We were traveling with our colleagues researchers that are working with triatomine insects that are responsible of chagas disease, also with the nocturnal butterflies of the group saturnidae and botanists. Once in the area we worked in different locations and with the instructions of the villagers we got lost more than once trying to find some places. The structure of the amphibian fauna was very similar to the dry valleys of Cochabamba, Chuquisaca and Tarija, but we think that in the wet side can be very interesting to work, but unfortunately we could not arrive. 

An interesting thing that we found was that the area is dedicated to mining of different resources. We saw a gold mining company,  very close to a conjunction of two streams, one from the mines and other without intervention. At first impression the difference was completely clear. One completely transparent and the other completely dirty and when those streams got together downriver we could not find any invertebrate or vertebrate aquatic life. The villagers told us that the mine company takes the rocks to the city and they work there with that. But could be interesting to see if this really happen because the pollution in the area it was very strong and maybe they are just discarding the chemicals in the stream and some of those chemicals can be mercury, a heavy metal that can be lethal for the wildlife and human populations that live downriver.

After the work in the area we gave some talks about the groups that we were working with and we explained the school kids about amphibians, conservation and the importance of amphibians for the ecosystem and for them.

Going back to the city it was another adventure because we found that the road was blocked by landslides so we had to go back and to take the long way that was not so nice to drive there, very narrow roads and with the first rains and foggy weather we had to drive very slowly and finally our brakes did not work and we had to drive about 130 km very slowly in a very strong rain.
After all this adventure now we are very excited to try to go back to the area and to work in the mountain cloud forest that we saw from the distance, now we need to organize maybe an long term expedition to see what kind of herpetofauna we can find.