Saludos RazaVerde, I’m going to take you for an exciting night in Las Nubes. Last week I had the opportunity to meet some wonderful human beings from Canada, since they are all part of Las Nubes project I am writing a post in English for the first time.
Las Nubes is a recently developed Eco Campus from York University in the foothills of La amistad National Park in Costa Rica. I am researching frogs and reptiles in the area, this animals are greatly endangered by climate change, pollution and loss of habitat. In the particular case of Costa Rica, the animals in the middle elevations, (between 900 to 2000 m.a.s.l.) are the ones that have suffered de most. We have developed most of our activities on that altitude belt of the mountains, let’s look at coffee plantations for example, meaning we have removed a great amount of suitable habitat. Las Nubes site is a wonderful place to find this lost amphibians and reptiles and its key at protecting the middle elevation fauna.
The hike starts sliding down in the mud towards the river, in the trail next to the water the night unveils, leafs, tweaks and logs that come to life. I was so positively surprised. Usually in mid elevation or highlands I am not very lucky, usually I find no snakes and little amphibians. Las Nubes greatly delivered, It brought 2 snakes, 6 or 7 species of amphibians and a bug that I have wanted to see my whole life.
We found 2 eyelash pit vipers, my companion Janinka, got tremendously nervous out of this guy in the photo. He was quietly siting on a leaf at a mouth height right next to the trail. She was not to happy that it took her a couple of minutes to spot her.
The night was exiting, cool, wet and full of noise. Las Nubes was more alive than many places I had visit. The chair of the recently lunched project is a Costa Rican, Dr. Felipe Montoya Greenheck, a man characterized by the capacity to see things with a completely different perspective, that believes in people and is completely committed with livelihoods and a healthy environment. It makes me proud that a project of this magnitude is led by a Costa Rican. Supporting him, is a living faculty that is betting on building this new way of doing things. Whilst walking in the night I could not stop remembering something that a good friend told me “If it works in Costa Rica, it will work anywhere else”. I strongly believe that we should all work towards making this country a lab in innovation and healthy life, let’s believe in ourselves.
After finding great frogs, I manage to spot something, I´m still not sure how I did it. Two meters above the ground, on a branch I spotted a little guy I have always wanted to see but have only seen on TV. Janinka is still a bit surprised of this amazing creature´s camouflage, I can totally say, this was the best animal in the whole night. I tried to take a picture of how it looked the first time we spot it. Here it is.
Did you find it? Luckily it is not a venomous snake. It has one of the most outstanding camouflage I have ever seen, after all its life depends on not being spotted by a predator. I leave to you, the great stick insect Trychopeplus laciniatus. (most likely that is the correct ID hahaha)
After 4 hours, it was time for a little snack, courtesy of Doña Marielos, my host mom in Santa Elena. Like any other York student I stay with host moms, this model gives students the opportunity of enjoying the “Pura Vida” lifestyle but also helps this great local woman become rural tourism entrepreneurs.
Taking pictures at night in the forest can be tricky, darkness, rain, mud, everything comes together to challenge your photography. On this particular night Janinka, a student undertaking her tesis, was of tremendous help so I could get you this pictures. Here she is with an amazing giant stick insect.
It was time to come back, the forest had given us amazing creatures of the night. However the “dessert” for an amazing night was a caecilian, we run into this legless amphibian (NOT A SNAKE) coming down the road to Santa Elena, right in the road trying to return into the soil unsuccessfully. We manage to save it from being ran over by a car. Compacted land stops this guys from being able to bury.
During my stay at Las Nubes I had the opportunity to meet a man with a great sense of awareness. Dr. Woody Fisher 17 years ago decided to buy a piece of forest on Costa Rica, he bought it moved by the impulse of seeing that forest alive. This forest is administer by the Faculty of Environmental Studies from York University (Canada). This week they lunched the first campus in Costa Rica. Personally I find the concept of this EcoCampus fascinating, it proposes a new way of working where this University not only believes in keeping the environment safe but is investing into developing human capital to achieve the goal of keeping nature alive. Can we save rural communities and the environment at the same time? I say we must. After spending time with the donors, Deans, faculty and other students, I have come to feel as if this University is trying to change the way we see development, towards a new way where well-being is in the center, understanding that this cannot be achieved if the world around us is not healthy. And to do that it is of up most important to solve the greatly complex environmental problems we are facing, problems that have more to do with “development” than with environment.
After this amazing experience I dedicate this post to the people that made this posible, if it weren’t for them and their vision I would not have been able to walk in Las Nubes. Specially to Dr. Woody Fisher and Valerie Grant, Jim and Joanne Love and Don Downer and Adrianne Perry.