April 4, 2005
This is going to be a busy day, so I'm fueling up with a few espressos here at the hotel.....Duran coffee is amazing...and high test! My interview with the national newspaper, Panama America, is scheduled this morning, then I meet with Roxana to discuss plans for a possible amphibian conservation center near the city, and then my talk this evening...gulp.
The interview went as well as possible given that I do not speak Spanish and the reporter did not speak English...so with that in mind, the story didn't turn out too bad. The important thing was that we got the word out about the mission of Project Golden Frog to more people. We discussed the plight of amphibians globally by discussing the effects of deforestation, pollution, and collection for the exotic pet trade, but we also discussed the more eminent threat of the chytrid fungus. We discussed the history of the fungus as it moved through the mountain regions of Costa Rica and also which species have been wiped out by the disease here in Panama and how the beloved golden frog is at risk of extinction. We talked about how the fungus causes the skin to become impermeable to water and oxygen, so the amphibians can't breathe or drink. We also talked about how the fungus is spread and what everyone can do to help slow the human caused transmission. The article stated the mission of the Cleveland team to try to find and save what could be the last of the Atelopus varius. Hopefully it is not too late. The fungus reached the region back in December........
After meeting with Roxana I practiced my talk a few times in my head (though I knew that it would be very different when everything would have to be translated as I spoke). Right before the talk Roxana informed me that I was competing with Santana........but to my surprise, it was a full house. 35 people in all attended, including Edgardo. It was nice to see a friendly face in the audience, but when telling the story about the search for the "Atelopus mysteriousis" I really teared up. I remember so vividly the walk through this beautiful forest, crystal clear water, wild and powerful waterfalls.....but no frogs, no salamanders......no calls.....just silence. I remember Edgardo urging us to keep looking, "we have to find the frogs" he said, over and over again.... but the worry in his face showed the truth. He would make the sound of the golden frog call, but that day no one was there to return the song. I can still see him knelt down to the earth, head in hands. He was praying for the frogs. We were too late. The locals said that all of the frogs died off three months prior, even the big hardy marine toads (Sapos).....chytrid beat us there.
After regaining my composure, I had looked out into the audience and they felt it too....that loss, and I wasn't the only one with tears in my eyes. The vibes given off in that room....so many people wanting to help, wanting to help save the golden frogs, wanting to help all of the amphibians....so many people each with their own talents and contributions to make. There were people from several NGOs, there were school teachers, there were scientists from the Smithsonian, there were students of the University of Panama........everyone wanting to help in so many ways. The talk went very well, and 20+ people stayed after for discussions about PGF and what they could do to help. I felt more hope for the frogs than I had felt in a long time. Sometimes it is overwhelming to think about the devastation Chytrid has caused. It is hard enough to deal with habitat destruction, pollution, and illegal collection........but a disease that cannot be eradicated in the wild?????? But now, I feel the sense hope that I was missing. If we all ban together and each fill our own niche...we can make a difference.