Interview with Dr. Kerry Kriger from Save The Frogs!
Casa Divina: What is the main goal of the ecotours that Save The Frogs organizes yearly around different countries?
Kerry Kriger: The purpose of the ecotours is primarily to get people out into nature and educated about wildlife and local conservation issues in the places where we visit, as well as to get them inspired to care about nature. This trip also help us to raise funds for the organization and assist the communities we visit, many of which protect nature because tourists are attracted to their forests and natural surroundings. So basically, educating people, raising funds and ensuring that communities protect the habitat are the goals of our ecotours.
CD: What kinds of people come to the tours?
KK: Generally people from the US, although we’ve had visitors from other countries, and we’ve had ages from 8 years old to about 73. Some of them have specific interest in frogs, and others just a general interest in nature. A lot of them have never been to the rainforest before, and many just have a big interest on the country we’re visiting and they see it as an opportunity to do it with us.
Regarding our requirements for joining the ecotour, we just need them to have a basic level of physical condition in order to walk for some hours in the forest, and a good attitude about it. A lot of the people in our tours don’t know anything about frogs when they come, and that’s definitely not a problem. They will probably end up knowing a lot, as they share the experience with others like biologists, professors, and government employees, among others. Anyone who shows the interest to join can come to our ecotours.
CD: What was your first time in Mindo and why is this a destination for the ecotours?
KK: I came here for the first time in November 2015. My primary Ecuadorian contact, Chelsey Carson, had spent 2 years in the country and we visited other parts of Ecuador in our first trip. She had heard about Casa Divina Lodge and suggested that I take a look so I came and spend 20 minutes one night, heard a lot of frogs, did a quick tour and ended up coming back for the first time on the Ecuador Ecotour 2016. Since then we have come back every year.
CD: Which other destinations are included in the Ecuadorian Ecotour?
KK: We meet up in Tumbaco and from there we go to spend some nights in two lodges located in the Napo province, along the Pusuno and Napo River. On our way to Mindo, we spend one night in the hot springs of Papallacta. After some nights in Mindo, and on our way to Quito, we visit the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve. Once in Quito, people can take a tour in the city center or go to the teleferico (cable car) and hike in the Ruco Pichincha volcano.
CD: Are there any activities being done to share the knowledge with the communities during the ecotours?
KK: On this trip there’s nothing specific, but we definitely need a lot of local guides showing us about frogs and that’s our way of contributing with the community. We have had ecotours where we go to schools, do presentations on frogs and I would like to incorporate that to all of our trips. The Ecuador Ecotour it’s not necessarily a volunteering experience, but more like an educational trip. However, when we go to Ghana is more like a specific trip to get work done and go to schools to share the knowledge.
CD: What other countries do you visit throughout the year with the ecotours?
KK: Last year and this year has only been Costa Rica and Ecuador. Before that, we went to Peru and for three years it was just Belize. I may go to Colombia sometime soon and set up a trip there. I’m also interested in setting up a different Ecuador Ecotour, because a lot of people that have already come would like to return if we propose a different route and new locations.
CD: Why do you think everyone should get to know better and love frogs?
KK: Frogs are really important to ecosystems and are rapidly disappearing around the world, especially in the Andes Mountains. This region has been experiencing one of the most drastic amphibious extinctions of the last 40 years, and frogs are the most endangered vertebrates.
The importance of frogs to our ecosystems is invaluable, as they eat ticks, flies and mosquitos that spread diseases, and they are food for a lot of other animals. They also filter water and keep the streams clear, so they have a lot of significance and ecological role. Also, many if the medicines used by humans are derived from a lot of amphibians and a lot of research is done on them, so it’s important to keep them around for our own benefit. Besides that, people like frogs from an aesthetic point of view and for their sound.
It’s our responsibility to protect them for future generations.
CD: Why is this extinction happening in the Andes more than in other regions?
KK: The main problem in the Andes is a disease called Chytridiomycosis, caused by a fungus that has been spreading around the world because human ship millions of amphibians intercontinentally each year for use as pets, food, laboratory and zoos. If a frog carrying the disease arrives to a destination, it can cause a lot of damage to the local population of amphibians.
That’s the number one problem, but there’s also habitat destruction. In Ecuador you have mining, agricultural, oil palm, bananas, road, timber extraction, oil mines, etc., and all of those activities are problems for habitat. Also, illegal wildlife trafficking – catching them in the wild and selling them illegally – represents an important threat.
Smaller threats in Ecuador would be invasive species, and in other parts of the world, eating frogs is certainly a problem. Climate change can also bring difficulties, specially for frogs that live up high the mountains: as earth warms up, they have to move up the mountain to maintain their thermal preference but when they’re at the top of the mountain there’s nowhere else to go.
CD: What do you think about the work being done in Ecuador regarding frogs conservation?
KK: There’s a lot of research and knowledge about frogs and their threats, so definitely that’s a good place to start. Ecotourism is really important because that’s a large reason why many of the rainforest and cloud forest still exist, so obviously protecting habitat is very important.
There’s not an organization like Save The Frogs in the country, and outside of our Ecotours we don’t have much presence regarding conservation and education issues. This means that there is a significant number of Ecuadorians who don’t know much about the value of frogs and the importance of these and other amphibians. At the same time, there are guides who know a lot about frogs, and also tours or night walks dedicated to amphibians and reptiles, which means that there’s a good infrastructure and people educated on the subject. I’d say that it would help if the scientists go to schools and do more education, and that’s something that few of them do.
In general, there’s not too much amphibian education to the public going on around the world, which is one of the reasons I started Save The frog.
CD: To finish this wonderful talk, tell us why do you bring your groups to Casa Divina Lodge...
KK: I like that all the people are always happy when they leave, so that’s the main reason. They have a good time, you have frogs here, you can hear them all night and it’s easy to see them. To me, that’s a very important aspect of an ecolodge: to easily see frogs. Also the property is beautiful, we get treated well and the food is excellent, and it’s easy to do other activities for people.
Feeling tempted to visit us in the next Save The Frogs Ecuador Ecotour? Check out their website and don’t miss this amazing opportunity!