June 1, 2016
It's 1:30am here in Asuncion, Paraguay. I fly to Ecuador in a few hours and since I don't want to fall asleep and potentially miss my flight, I thought this would be a perfect time to update you on recent SAVE THE FROGS! activity and what I have been up to these four months that I've been in South America. First though, thank you for all your support, whether that's been through donating, volunteering, spreading the word or just improving your own ecological footprint. SAVE THE FROGS! is successful because of the involvement of you and thousands of other frog enthusiasts around the globe.
I flew from Miami to Chile on January 28th. After visiting the Atacama desert with my father for a week, I spent three weeks in Santiago building the www.savethefrogs2.com website and meeting with Chilean researchers. This summer I will merge that site with www.savethefrogs.com and add lots of new functionality…but right now I have a dead six year old computer, so website development is on hold. Before leaving Chile I spent a few days in the beautiful Cachapoal Valley, where I found two endangered frogs.
On February 26th I flew to Cusco, Peru. I met up with Dr. Alessandro Catenazzi and spent a week with him and his assistants in the montane cloud forests and the Amazon rainforest looking for frogs and salamanders and designing an ecotour. The Female Frogging SAVE THE FROGS! Peru Ecotour will take place November 3-15, 2016. If you are female and want to take part in this all female ecotour to one of the world’s froggiest places, please email firstname.lastname@example.org . Did I mention you’ll also visit Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley? I spent a week in that area with my sister and niece and it was stunning. Peru also has culture, native culture. Not many countries remain with that depth of native tradition still permeating society.
On March 17th I flew to Asuncion, Paraguay. I went straight into the field (www.savethefrogs.com/paraguay) and had a fabulous time finding frogs with undergraduates from the Universidad Nacional de Asuncion. A few days later I spoke at the university and headed back to the field to find more frogs (lots of photos to come once I have a functional computer again).
On March 28th I flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina. I spent much of my month there working at my computer on a variety of SAVE THE FROGS! projects unrelated to Argentina. I also gave my first formal musical performance in about eight years, with my good friend Rasikananda Das, with whom I played three concerts in Buenos Aires in 2002. I headed out to the mouth of the Parana River to escape the city and had to walk with my full backpack through a flood that was up to my thighs. Supposedly the massive forest destruction in Paraguay and Brazil has resulted in flooded rivers since the forests are no longer there to catch water, and Argentina has been having persistent floods because of it. Why are the forests being destroyed? To plant soy to feed cattle so people (usually in faraway countries) can eat beef. I returned to Buenos Aires and gave presentations at the University of Buenos Aires and the University of La Plata. I flew up north to Misiones province, where the southernmost portion of the Atlantic Rainforest (one of the world's biodiversity hotspots) still remains intact. Winter had set in in the Southern Hemisphere and that combined with the floods did a great job of keeping the tourists away so I had the place all to myself it felt like. I visited some beautiful falls and hiked in the Mocona Reserve on Save The Frogs Day, where I could see across the Uruguay River to Brazil. I took a six hour bus to Corrientes/Resistencia and gave a presentation at the Universidad Nacional Del Nordeste. The room was packed, standing room only, and I gave one of the best presentations I've ever given. I went out one cold night with Argentine researchers to look for frogs. There were a few calling for certain; but I'm told on a summer night you can easily find twenty species there.
On May 5th I took a six hour bus ride to Asuncion, Paraguay. On the bus, among other things, I wrote down 35 tips on how to give an inspiring presentation. I'll put these in the book I have been writing (How To Start A Nonprofit And Take It Worldwide) and also give them to our SAVE THE FROGS! 90-Day Challenge students the week we focus on presentations. I arrived in Paraguay happy to be back. I had not planned to return to Paraguay but the people here have treated me very well and we have some very enthusiastic volunteers here.
On May 6th, we held the inaugural meeting of SAVE THE FROGS! Paraguay. I gave a presentation, and so did the group’s President, Andrea Gabriaguez. After signing the constitution we headed out to find microhylid frogs on the campus. We have since held two meetings for the SAVE THE FROGS! Paraguay executive team. They are preparing to incorporate and apply for Paraguay’s equivalent of 501©(3) status. In other words, they are very serious about succeeding and making a huge impact. They have already begun visiting local schools and other universities in Asuncion.
I've spent most of May in downtown Asuncion. I usually wake up, eat breakfast and read. Then I sit at my desk on the 8th floor of my building, overlooking the Paraguay River, and I take care of frog business through my iPad and iPhone (my computer has been dead for the last month, but I can still manage and grow this organization - thank you Apple). I generally have a few Skype meetings daily with various SAVE THE FROGS! staff and volunteers around the world. I spent a couple nights in Parque Nu Guazu, a city park that when it's warm out has tons of frogs. I made an amazing short video of a Physalaemus biligonigerus calling and I'll get it up to YouTube sometime soon to show you. I started taking Muay Thai classes in town to stay in shape and learn some new skills.
I took a week roadtrip to eastern Paraguay as well. I saw some amazing waterfalls (Salto Del Monday), and was inspired by the work of Moises Bertoni, whose reserve that bears his name is but a small fraction of the rainforest that existed when he arrived in Paraguay in the late 1800’s. Eastern Paraguay was disturbing. The rainforest has been almost completely cleared. Dirt, soy, corn, eucalyptus, sugarcane, cows. For hundreds of kilometers. Monsanto and Cargill and Archers Daniel Midland. Roundup and Atrazine. Wetlands drained. All where thirty years ago stood vast tracts of the Atlantic Rainforest. I saw the Itaipu dam, which forty years ago when it was built put 100,000 hectares of rainforest underwater. Paraguayan snake conservationist Danilo Krause (of Vida Salvaje Paraguay) and I drove 54km down a dirt road to get to Paraguay’s largest remaining tract of Atlantic Rainforest, the Mbaracayu Reserve, which protects 64,000 hectares of forest. The reserve and the lodge there is run primarily by schoolgirls. 120 girls live there and learn about tourism and ecology on top of more standard school subjects. They guided us through the forest. We'd play soccer (football) an hour each afternoon. A park guard took us upriver in a canoe. We attempted to drive to the middle of the reserve but got stuck in mud. Luckily we knew where the workers with the big tractor would be. They helped us out. Then we got stuck in dirt. They helped us out again. Danilo and I gave presentations to the students. The next day we headed out the 54km dirt road but it started to rain and the dirt turned to mud and we got stuck on a narrow bridge. For a few seconds I thought we may slide off the edge. We didn't. A pickup truck arrived and the guys in it pushed us out of the mud. We made it back to the main road and headed west. The rainforest destruction agricultural wasteland turned into more pleasant rolling hills with grass, wetlands and forest. We spent a night by a wetland and heard a single frog calling (it is Paraguayan winter now).
I got back to Asuncion last Friday and held the second class of the SAVE THE FROGS! 90-Day Challenge. This is an online educational course I conceived a few weeks ago and rapidly implemented with the help of my USA staff members, Michael Starkey, Emily Moskal and Kathlyn Franco. We announced it six days before it started. On Sunday’s video conference, we had 19 people on the call, including students in Paraguay, Argentina, Nepal, Bhutan and the USA. The first week we also had Ecuador and Morocco represented. I am very excited about the class as I am sure we will have very well trained frog savers by the time it's over. We've discussed urban development, tourism impact, environmental communications and more. Next week we will be focused on holding successful events.
I've also been working with Michael Starkey and our friends in Ghana to finalize plans for our SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana Expedition this September. We will soon be seeking your financial support to ensure that Michael and I, plus five other international frog experts can make it to Ghana and spend 17 days saving frogs there and training Ghanaian volunteers. We will also announce that there are spots for seven frog enthusiasts to join us this September 11-27 in Ghana. If you want to join this once in a lifetime adventure, please let us know (sorry we don't have scholarships or grants to get you there, but if you have the funds you will remember the trip for the rest of your life). Michael and I have also finalized plans for a SAVE THE FROGS! Costa Rica ecotour scheduled for July 14-25, 2017.
There's actually a whole lot more going on at SAVE THE FROGS! right now (such as SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana Co-Founder Gilbert Adum winning a $50,000 grant for our Ghanaian efforts!). But I have to pack to head to the airport and close out this part of my SAVE THE FROGS! South America journey, and start another. On Thursday I head to the Galápagos Islands for a week, to find and photograph amazing wildlife and follow in the footsteps of one of my environmental heroes, Charles Darwin, whose On The Origin Of Species book is not only an evolutionary classic but a natural history classic. Plus he ends every chapter with a couple paragraphs of deep philosophy, so if you haven't read it, go read it. After the Galápagos I will spend four days in Quito with SAVE THE FROGS! staff meeting with Ecuadorian biologists. Then on June 15th the inaugural SAVE THE FROGS! Ecuador Ecotour begins! We plan to find some amazing frogs. Afterwards I'll visit the Laguna Quilatoa and some other Ecuadorian natural areas and perhaps give a talk or two at schools. On July 6th I return to California. In August I take a weeklong wilderness first aid course in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. In September I will – with your financial support – fly to Ghana to save frogs for a few weeks and celebrate SAVE THE FROGS! Ghana’s five year anniversary. After that, I am not sure where I will go, but visiting our frog saving volunteers in Nepal, India and Bangladesh is high on the list.
Time to pack my bags and head to Ecuador. Thanks for reading this and for being a supporter. Please visit www.savethefrogs.com/donate and place a donation and I'll turn your hard earned money into frogs saved and people educated.
SAVE THE FROGS! Founder Dr. Kerry Kriger
P.S. Rohayhu Paraguay! (I love Paraguay in Guarani, the most popular native language in the country).