The following travel diary entry was written by Josh Lucas, one of the Zoo’s amphibian and reptile caretakers. On behalf of the Zoo, he traveled more than 2,800 miles to work with its partner organization, Jatun Sacha, in Ecuador. The following entries are the last two entries Josh wrote before boarding his flight home to the United States. To read Josh’s other blogs, click here.
Entry #4: 1/20/2017
The frog project has been smooth sailing since my last, more chaotic entries! We have now collected a solid number of specimens to ensure vitality and genetic diversity between our mini frog populations.
Over the course of the past nine days my energy has been focused on setting this project up for long-term success, meaning preparing for after I’m gone. I’ve spent lots of time training and teaching the director of the reserve, a biologist, and a few people from the local community who live and work at the reserve full time. Captive frog care is more intricate than you may realize, and differs greatly from seeing or sharing space with them in the wild. Sharing my knowledge and experience is an integral part of my presence here.
These are the people who will keep this project going long after I return home, essentially the success or failure of everything here is dependent upon my ability to prepare them for the year to come. That being said, perhaps you can imagine how in depth my care instructions have been. We’ve covered many aspects of husbandry and frog behavior, breeding & reproduction, and of course, food preparation and management.
We have worked to establish successful food cultures for the frogs so that they can have a sustainable variety of insects available at all times. Luckily if anything goes wrong the rainforest is rife with delicious insects that can be harvested to feed the frogs!
These frogs are in good hands and going to receive lots of love and care. Maybe, just maybe, this can be the beginning of a spectacular comeback for these threatened animals!
Final Entry: 1/31/2017
The time has come and my trip has drawn to a close, so I’m writing one last time as I wait to board my plane home. I hope you, the Zoo blog readers, have enjoyed my stories and experiences from way down south, here in Ecuador. I know I have enjoyed sharing them. Without your generous contributions to and love for the Oklahoma City Zoo, these kinds of opportunities simply would not exist, so thank you!
Minus a few hiccups, this project was as successful as we intended. We located our frogs, built them zoo-quality homes, trained local caretakers, established consistent food sources, and diligently monitored our little amphibians as they settled in. That being said, I’d like to offer a few final thoughts gathered from my month of experiences in this beautiful country.
Conservation gets talked about frequently, but a lot of people don't see enough of its direct benefits in their day-to-day lives. As someone who has visited multiple tropical countries and reserves consistently over the past six years, I can tell you first-hand that our planet’s environments and animals are in trouble. In just six years, I’ve seen, with my own eyes, the population declines in habitats that I’ve revisited. As I mentioned before, in a mere five years, the frog we came here to protect has seen a rapid decline in numbers. It’s insane, it’s catastrophic, and we are in dire need of more in-situ (on site) projects and initiatives.
The Zoo is working hard to do its part, but it would be even better to inspire more people to join in and protect the things we all love. Hopefully, I’ve managed to do just that. If any of you feel the urge to get involved, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Zoo or myself for assistance.
Thanks again for reading, for donating, and for visiting and supporting the Oklahoma City Zoo. Our relationship with our partners at Jatun Sacha and our prospects for the future couldn’t be better. We are all excited to watch this project grow and develop during the year to come!
The graphic seen in the Zoo's Facebook post, displayed some of the specimens we found, was designed by my partner in the field, Sebastian Hernandez.
--Josh Lucas, reptile and amphibian caretaker