Stories from the Amazon

  • Tree frog
    A tree frog perches on a branch in the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador.

    This Rainforest Mission: To Find Tree Frogs

    “Where are you going?” The question was from a plain-clothed police officer.

    “I’m heading to the Achuar village of Tiinkias,” I replied. I was standing with a group of students from the University of Nebraska on the tarmac of the Puyo airport in eastern Ecuador.

    Knowing we were doing nothing wrong, I refused to be intimidated.

    The questions continued. “How long will you be in the jungle? What will you be doing there? Do you plan to go to the community of Sarayaku?”

    Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, has threatened unspecified consequences for an independent indigenous community in the Amazon that is harboring three political opponents and facing imprisonment for defaming him.

    Correa has angrily accused the 1,200 people living in Sarayaku and who belong to the country's largest indigenous group, the Kichwa, of acting above the law. The remote community is famed among the indigenous in the Americas for successfully resisting oil drilling.

    “No, we are not going to Sarayaku,” I replied.

    I quietly said to myself, “I wished.” It would be good to hear from those who have exposed some questionable activities of the Ecuadorian president. The mood of the Ecuadorian people is changing toward Correa. They are starting to question his actions of changing the constitution whenever and however he wishes for his own benefit.

    But this was not my mission.

    Tree frog
    With a group of students from the Sig Ep fraternity in Lincoln, we were on our way to explore the Amazon Rainforest and take school materials to the Achuar village of Tiinkias.

    With only five nights in the forest, one can only begin to scratch the surface regarding the enormous amount of life found there. A staggering 30 percent of all the living species of the world are found in the Amazon Rainforest.

    On average, the forest gets 6 feet of rain a year.

    As our plane flew over continuous rainforest, the horizon was like an endless broccoli field in every direction.

    Occasionally, a brown winding river or a small clearing containing the thatched roofs interrupted the green. But otherwise, it was unbroken.

    The majority of the forest life-forms are plants and insects that have evolved to survive in the highly competitive environment.

    Tree frog
    On this journey, I was hoping to find more anurans. An anura is an order of animals in the class Amphibia that includes frogs and toads. I was looking specifically for tree frogs. With more than 4,000 species in the world, of which 1,600 are found in the tropics, I felt my chances were good.

    A big reason for the large volume of frogs in the tropics is because the forest maintains a constantly high humidity that helps keep the frogs’ skin moist. This is essential to their survival.

    The challenge is most tree frogs are quite small and well camouflaged. Additionally, they are generally nocturnal.

    I offered a bounty to the UNL students to help me find frogs.

    It worked. They found frogs and I took photos.

    When night falls, the rainforest comes alive with insects, birds and frogs. The courtship patterns of frogs are sophisticated. Male frogs vocalize a specific call that serves to attract the females. What a joy to finally capture a few images of those that would sing us to sleep each night.

    Tree frog
    A tree frog perches on a branch in the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador. Each night the vocalizations of tree frogs, insects and birds fill the forest with sounds.

    Fremont Tribune

Copyright © Dean Jacobs 2019. All Rights Reserved.