MONTEVERDE, Costa Rica — The wind blew ferociously outside, but when Bobby Watson and I walked into the Monteverde Ranario the songs of frogs and toads drowned out any noise of the outside world.
Monteverde Ranario, better known as the Monteverde Frog Pond, houses over 22 species of native Costa Rican frogs and toads. Most species are poisonous. Most are also nocturnal — which meant our early evening arrival was just in time to hear the frog and toad symphony.
Yenaro Mata Suárez guided us as we walked to each enclosure. We soon learned that Suárez was a former student of our program coordinator, Amy Cherwin. Suárez was quick to share stories and other information about every frog and toad we looked through the glass at.
The Monteverde Frog Pond looked like an enclosed jungle and as we walked through we were surprised to find every enclosure was only covered by a screen. Peeled bananas were placed within the cages attracting flies that the frogs and toads had to catch. When a frog or toad got large enough mice were also placed within its cage. Frogs and toads catch mice by waiting for them to walk in front of them, and then they quickly snatch it up with their mouth and swallow it. Since frogs have no teeth they must swallow the mice whole, and then digest them.
We were surprised to learn that the Monteverde Frog Pond lets the frogs breed naturally. Females and males are placed in the enclosures together and allowed to reproduce as frequently as they please.
Soon the sun began to fade. We spent the second half of the tour in complete darkness, hunting for any sign of amphibian life with two small flashlights. Spotting the inhabitants of the cages soon became a competition between Suárez and Bobby. It was comical to watch the two grown men compete to see who could spot a frog first.
By the end of the tour, frogs and toads were croaking and chirping loudly. We came to learn about frogs and toads, but left with an even greater appreciation of amphibians and their habitats. The sound I heard when I was walking towards the door is one I will not forget — the sound of an amphibian symphony.
— Maggie Hardwick
— Photos by Bobby Watson