Monday after breakfast, January 21, 2019
Following breakfast, we were treated to a hike in the Casual Forest, in a section called terra firma forest, meaning that the area never floods. It is, however, quite muddy, and we wear high rubber boots for the walk. We were accompanied by a local guide carrying a machete. He used it to cut through some vegetation, but was also ready to use it for protection if needed.
Here we learned about the Strangler Fig, a vine that slowly smothers its host tree, absorbing the tree’s nutrients and eventually killing the tree. This fig sends roots into the ground as well to find nutrients. The one we saw today is about 100 years old, it can grow to about 200 years. This fig had a beehive about half way up, and we could see the bees buzzing around.
There is a Porcupine Pine tree whose bark has very strong thorns that protect it from predation. One of our fellow travelers stepped on one of the thorns, and it penetrated the thick rubber boot she was wearing. Its wood has lighter stripes throughout, creating beautiful patterns in the trays and bowls carved by the local peoples.
A Walking Pine tree can move as much as eighth inches in a year, searching for sunlight. After a few years, it settles in one spot, with its long “legs” planted firmly in the soil.
We met a Green Anaconda, a fairly young one, only about 3 feet in length. The anaconda is not poisonous, but when it sets its fangs into its prey, the prey cannot escape. The anaconda then squeezes it and swallows it head first. The local guide picked it up with a stick so we could see its length and the coloration of the underside.
We found a tiny Red-backed Poison Dart Frog. This frog isn’t inherently poisonous, it gets its toxicity from eating fire ants.
Nasute termites build nests in trees, using a paste of chewed wood glued together with termite feces. These tiny termites generate a turpentine-like liquid which they spray on their enemies. Locals sometimes use this “turpentine” to repel mosquitoes, or to start fires. Our guide captured a handful so we could see just how small they are, and get a whiff of the turpentine odor.
The female tarantula is about twice the size of the male, one of which we encountered on our hike. The female often feeds on the male after mating, although some males do manage to escape this fate.
We also were treated to a slow performance by a juvenile Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth. When looking for food, the sloth often travels upside down on tree branches. After dining, it moves to the tree tops, where it can become easy prey for hawks. The sloth has two extra cervical vertebrae that allow it to turn its neck 180 degrees.