Monteverde Cloud Forest
The “golden toad” (bufo perigienes) is a beautiful animal. A brilliant orange-colored male, it’s the kind of toad even a princess would kiss – if she could find one. Originally discovered in 1964 by biologists Jay Savage, Norm Scott amd the late Jerry James, it was known to exist only in its breeding ground, the Monteverde Cloud Forest. In the early 1980s, biologists counted more than 1,500 adult golden toads (sapo dorado in Spanish) in an annual survey. The next year the researchers found only 11. By 1987, they could find only 1. Since that day, golden toads have never been seen again. As a group, frogs were on the planet long before dinosaurs, so why then are they disappearing all over the world? Especially from such a protected area such as Monteverde? No one is sure, although it seems to be related to environmental pressures. Whatever the reason, scientists agree that the plight of the frogs is a biological warning sign for our Earth.
Researchers are looking closely at the correlation of the frog’s disappearance with El Niño and global warming, but another theory speculates that an alien organism or microscopic pest may have been carried in by an unsuspecting scientist – or visiting eco-tourist – and caused a plague. That would be ironic. After all, the national parks, along with private reserves such as Monteverde, were begun specifically to preserve and protect Costa Rica’s biological diversity.