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April 01, 2019
By Chawna Schuette, Herpetarium Keeper
We traveled to a very special type of habitat, the Ecuadorian dry forest near the Pacific Coast. This habitat has many unique endemic plant and animal species, including specially adapted trees and cacti. We were in search of the Pacific horned frog (Ceratophrys stolzmanni).
As we drove down a dirt road to a location these frogs were last known to be, the vehicle approached many clusters of butterflies on the road. As we got close, they would fly up all around us like gold and white confetti. We were all in awe of the beautiful sight. We saw three wild tegu (a type of lizard) along the road as well.
When we arrived, we took a two-mile hike in search of tadpoles of C. stolzmanni. We took in the sights of the beautiful weaver birds, the plant life and unique invertebrate species. We saw tarantulas and foam nests of other frog species, but no sign of the horned frog until we reached the end of the trail, where we found a mud pond left by some construction workers. There we saw tons of tadpoles, and they were the species we were looking for! We were very excited and collected the tadpoles.
We waited until later in the evening to search for the adults. I was lucky enough to find the first one of the night. I was so excited to see him. I brought him up to my colleagues and showed them through the window and gave him a little frog kiss, "Perfecto!"
As the night went on, lots of horned frogs emerged, and we caught many more. This was extremely special and timed perfectly. These frogs are hard to locate, even in areas where their populations are still doing well. They only come to the surface seasonally, and normally only for a short period of time to breed and lay eggs. This was a very successful visit to this location indeed, and it was such a treat to see this species in the wild!