Kokoe Poision Frog, Utria National Park, Colombia
On this day where the universe conspired against us (people not showing up to appointments, fog problems, incompetent local staff) we very much needed a lucky break. This single find turned the day around. We came to the northwest of Colombia for birds, the cloud forest, but also for rare poison frogs. This is one of the key target species.
This is possibly the male of the species, as it is known to carry tadpoles to still waters as soon as they hatch. Besides this frog being beautiful and having a small range, it's also incredibly tiny and very, very poisonous. Which is no direct reason for concern, they release poison only under heavy stress and it would affect you only by directly touching them. The behavior of the frog is obviously to flee, not to attack.
To highlight the incompetence of the local ranger: "this is a very common frog, totally harmless".
This find was also our first meeting with the process of finding poison dart frogs. Our ignorant assumption was that we'd just travel to the right area, and they'd be easy to find due to their vibrant colors. Simple.
We couldn't be more wrong. Poison frogs are well hidden under piles of dead leafs. You find them by their mating call, which you wouldn't recognize as they sound like a bird, amidst a jungle full of other bird sounds. Here's the mating call for this one:
The call, if you know how to listen for it, points you in a search direction, a radius of a few meters from where you heard the call. Next, using flashlights and picking up leaf by leaf, you try to find the exact location. The frog is aware of you and will stop calling. The whole process of finding a single frog like this can easily take an hour, if you find it at all.
They're also a LOT smaller than we expected. Having found one and having it in sight, looking at my camera for some settings, I would easily lose it again when looking back into the scene. An idea of its size:
Here's a closeup of the tadpoles on its back:
A 2nd individual found nearby:
''Phyllobates aurotaenia'' is a member of the frog family Dendrobatidae, which are found in the tropical environments of Central and South America. First described by zoologist George Albert Boulenger in 1913, ''P. aurotaenia'' is known for being one of the most poisonous frogs in the world. It is the smallest of the poison dart frogs in the Phyllobates genus and is endemic to the Pacific coast of Colombia.
Wild specimens store batrachotoxin in glands in their skin, which can be fatal.. more