We Hear a Frog | The Golden Frog
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The Golden Frog

When the animal disappears, we hear a frog.  And then, another.  In a tiny pocket of this river, we find three, possibly four more glass frog species. 

I cannot explain why, Lola, but I am thrilled to see these frogs, like little jewels of life.  I guess there are more majestic things in the world than small green frogs, but right now, I am at the entrance to Petra and the London Philharmonic and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, all at once.

A few days later, I am sharing dinner with the birders at Canopy Lodge, when a couple enters the open dining area.  The birders recognize them immediately.  Raúl Arias de Para and his wife join us for dinner.

Raúl is the grandson of Tomas Arias, one of the founding fathers of Panama.  Raúl was schooled in the United States, and came back to Panama a businessman.  In 1968, Panama's elected president was yanked from office by the National Guard only a week and a half after being elected.  The National Guard continued to expand its reach and control over Panamian government, running a government high in human rights violations, assassinations, torture and fraud.  It was in this environment that General Manuel Noreiga built up a government whose income was becoming increasingly tied to an underground criminal empire, composed of money laundering, drug smuggling and Chinese immigrant smuggling.

Raúl left business and became a major player in the opposition against the Noreiga regime.  He went on to write the book, "Anatomy of a Fraud," which continues to be the country's bestselling book of all time.  The book was an extensive expose of the 1984 elections.

Today, Raúl is a prominent Panamanian businessman, a conservationist, and the owner of a small group of successful eco-lodges.  He had heard about our night walk, looking for frogs, and he recounts the story of David Attenborough's BBC film crew coming to El Valle to film the golden frogs.

He describes the situation after the BBC film crew brought attention to the golden frog.

The species had one chance for survival.

That chance, in fact, is a method of desperation.  A very last resorts method. Rush into the species' habitat, collect all remaining individuals, drop them in Ziploc bags, rush them to quarantine, then house them in aquariums and attempt to breed them.

Arrow Male red-eyed leaf frog perches on marsh plants. Travel photography by Erik Gauger.
 

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