So its back to knocking off segments of the Waitukubuli National Trail, so on to Section 5. Which pretty much starts in the dead centre of the island and heads east to the coast. An hour or two walking through nice peaceful covered forest with a bit of agricultural land (where i stopped to chat to some farmers about the frog) brought me to Emerald Pool again. Had a lovely refreshing dip but as I was getting changed to leave I got stung my fire ants one on the eye and one on the scrotum so I had a pretty miserable hours worth of hiking until the burning itching sensation died down. After that it was a leisurely stroll along side the road and rivers until I got to a friends house (she happens to live right next to the trail, which is fortunate) where i set up shop (hammock) for the night. After having a lovely evening (CHEESECAKE) and breakfast with my friends and teaching some local boys that glow flies are not witches in disguise I set off to Castle Bruce to finish the hike. Which took me past, and NOT over, a bridge in dire need of repair! Then it was just an hour through some agricultural land till I got to Castle Bruce and jumped on a Bus back to Roseau.
So due to my reliability (compared to Dominicans) and the fact I always pay on the day (compared to Dominicans) I was invited to the birthday party of one of our Volunteers. Not a big deal right? Well he managed to hire a boat for the day which came to like £8 per person (7 of us). So we boarded and off we went up the west coast to Secret Beach and then round the back of Cabrits to enjoy the CRYSTAL BLUE waters. Not really much more to say than that, look at the pictures yourself! On the way back the crew decided to do a spot of fishing and well yeah, check out the video and the picture below to see what happens there! Twas a good day, with beer, sun and sea!
So its not just Frogs that we work on over here. This month a team from the Dominican Republic (Grupo Jaragua) and the American Bird Conservancy came to try and find the Black Capped Petrel or Diablotin (Little Devil). This critically endangered bird is only known to nest in the DR. However after an investigation last year several were believed to have been seen, on night vision cameras, flying over Dominica. So this year a larger team was sent down to help to see if the birds may be nesting in the mountains of Dominica. So I signed up to help. It was a hard week, trekking across the mountain ranges of Dominica looking for potential nesting sites (above 1000m). The guys were were working with were a great laugh even across the language barrier. But did we find the devil?? Unfortunately not, we found suitable sites but alas not a single nest. It was only a short survey period however so hopefully next year?
Well it was a bloody bad start to the month! Not only did the dreaded Chytrid fungus (think frog ebola) get into the facility and infect 4 of the 5 frogs we have, but two Cane Toads cropped up on Dominica. Both these two factors have the potential to do a great deal of damage to the Mountain Chicken population on Dominica.
Here is why:
1) The chytrid fungus is decimating frog populations globally and is the reason the mountain chicken is critically endangered with only 150 left in the wild. See more info here: http://www.amphibianark.org/the-crisis/chytrid-fungus/
2) the Cane Toad (ask any Australian about these bastards) not only carry the chytrid fungus but also don't suffer from it so they are perfect vectors for the disease. They also eat the same food as Mountain Chickens and even have the potential to eat Mountain Chickens. In short they are a biological disaster for any island they invade.
The fungus is treatable however and all the frogs in our facility are now being treated, one unfortunately died to a stupid error on my part (I was utterly mortified). But the others are all recovering well. We also found a male with chyrid in the wild who we brought back for treatment. So it seems chytrid may have reared its ugly head again. However we think the remaining population may be resistant to the fungus (how else would they still be alive?) So we are staying hopeful.
We conducted 2 surveys for Cane Toads and found nothing and we also made the public in the area the frogs were found aware of the issue, we are hoping its an isolated case!!!