“Serendipity is the faculty of finding things we did not know we were looking for.” -Glauco Ortolano
( Mindo Ecuador ) – Just before dusk last Monday, I drove to town to make a very-special telephone call. Alejandro had urged me to contact him, but until this moment, our communications had only been via internet.
I stepped into the phone ‘cabina’ and placed a call that would greatly alter the rest of my evening.
“Hello Alejandro? This is Lisa from Mindo-Cinto.” I wondered if he would remember me, and then I added, “I have a snake in a bucket for you. Black above and white below. I just emailed the photos.”
Alejandro Arteaga, co-author of The Amphibians and Reptiles of Mindo, had patiently helped with frog, lizard, anole and snake identificiations over the past few months. He and his partners often update their scientific database, especially if a species shows up in a new area — or if they mysteriously begin to disappear.
He confirmed this beauty (below) was a Hippie Anole, although the Amphibians & Reptiles book was an excellent source for learning the names of these unique creatures that live on the property.
At times there are species that are difficult to identify, especially without having trusty internet search engines close at hand! Alejandro has been patient and always helpful. This past January, after I sent photos of a tiny black snake, Alejandro wrote,
Thanks a lot for sharing all this information and experiences with us.
It seems from your picture that you have found an albino Atractus dunni (which might be the first report). Either that, or it is a new species.
Is there any chance that, if you find one of these ground snakes again, you keep it alive in a bucket until we get there from Quito? The idea would be to photograph the individual and include this information in the new version of the book. “
Almost always I carry clippers and various items in a bucket when I work on the property, but for months, the little black snake managed to stay well hidden. Other species served as great substitutes.
So back to the story! After talking with Alejandro on the phone, I returned to the restaurant El Tigrillo, where I often use the internet while enjoying a meal. Alejandro emailed me back with this message –
This is awesome. A new record for Mindo.
We definitely will visit you to photograph this snake. Actually we could go now.
Alejandro reached Mindo around 10 that night, and we reached the property around 11. I was a bit fearful that the snake might have escaped, but Alexandro carefully sifted through the soil and found the still-healthy and very-timid little snake. Very small and quite harmless, this Atractus snake lives in a very small area of Ecuador, and Alejandro was excited to be holding this very-healthy and quite-alive one!
He had planned to photograph the snake at the house, but after looking at it, he asked if it he could take it to Quito, where they could study it.
He said that it is better to transport the snakes at night because of their low metabolism rate, and that the heat of the day might stress it. After admiring the snake and putting it in a little bag/carrier for the road trip, he again said, “Congratulations.” then added, “You might be the first person to photograph this snake…” In turn, I congratulated him and added, “If it weren’t for you, I would never have caught the snake and saved it for you… You are the one that deserves the credit.”
And he does! Since this is his field of study, I will wait until he formally announces it – with superior photos, before I share my own photos of the little black snake.
In the future I hope to write another post about Alejandro and his partners. Today there was a new email from him which stated, “Feel free to talk about the finding of the beautiful Atractus paucidens. To my knowledge, the pictures you took are the first that anyone has taken of the animal alive 🙂 “
So ” Atractus paucidens ” is now living under the protective guardianship of Alejandro Arteaga of Tropical Herping in Quito.
(And to think that some of you thought I only watched the birds!)
Until next time online,