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April 10, 2019
By Chawna Schuette, Herpetarium Keeper
One of the last stops we made after leaving Machala was to a large pond off the highway. We pulled over to where two kids were selling fruit at a stand and an old man was sitting on the front porch surrounded by geese. We were very interested in the large pond on their property, and my Ecuadorian colleagues asked permission to take samples of the plant life from the landowner. We started collecting samples of a plant resembling duckweed and putting it in the bottles.
The children came to see what we were doing and we asked them in Spanish if they knew of any good spots to find tadpoles or frogs and the little kids disappeared. When the little boy returned, he showed us a pot with a few tadpoles in it. We were all very excited! We said, “Donde?” The boy and girl motioned for us to follow them behind the house, across some boards they had laid out to allow them to cross the puddles easily. There, below the Cacao trees, they started racing each other to catch the most tadpoles. There were several different species of tadpoles, and we all pitched in to collect the tadpoles swimming in the puddles from among the decomposing leaves just below the beautiful Cacao orchard. Once we had the animals we needed for the research facility, we secured them, and I gave the kids each a gold dollar coin. Not knowing this, my colleague, Patricio, also gave them each a $1 coin. This made the two kids very happy and they were smiling from ear to ear.
The kids had so much fun helping us, and their connection to nature and awareness of what lives in their own yard was impressive. Many children do not have the opportunity and experience to be familiar with animals and nature, much less show gratitude for it and have it pay off, so I was as excited as they were to see them have that moment. All of us thought how exciting it would have been to have been children and have scientists come to our houses and ask us for help looking for animals when we were kids. I hope it encourages them to continue to love animals and nature and keep learning. We took a few photos and waved goodbye to the smiling kids and family. It was a great trip.