A Field Guide Review Of The Herps Of The Maya World
We welcome people with a wide range of experience levels, from professional herpetologists to amateur enthusiasts. Training will always be provided and help given where needed, so in theory you need come armed only with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. However, we feel a certain amount of background information will enhance the whole experience and give expedition volunteers a more rewarding time.
This of course helps us out as the more knowledge we have collectively within a group the easier it becomes to correctly identify and record the species we find. With this in mind we’d like to suggest a few books and papers that will give a good background to your trip, enable you to begin identifying animals in the field and, importantly, not break the bank!
A Field Guide To The Amphibians and Reptiles Of The Maya World: The Lowlands of Mexico, Northern Guatemala, and Belize.
Invaluable and easily available is Julian C.Lee’s ‘A Field Guide To The Amphibians and Reptiles Of The Maya World: The Lowlands of Mexico, Northern Guatemala, and Belize.’ This book covers the Yucatan Peninsula and importantly for us the Petén region of Guatemala, location of Estación Biologica Las Guacamayas. It starts with some useful black and white drawings of some key general identification features i.e. subcaudal scales in snakes, differences in anuran feet and crocodile dentition.
This is followed by an overview of the geological makeup and climate of the area as well as a section looking at the different habitat types found here. The bulk of the book is made up of species accounts which include some very good identification information as well as brief natural histories. The known distribution of each species is shown on a map: bear in mind that these cannot be 100% accurate and include many unknowns and ‘probables’ (indicated by ?’s on the map) but are still sufficient to give a good indication of the likelihood of the species in question being present in a particular area.
Of course the more survey effort we (and many others searching remote regions of Central America) put in, the better defined the species distributions will become!
Lee’s book includes colour photos of course – all in one big section with six per page and all good. There are also some stunningly detailed line drawings liberally scattered throughout the text covering a wide range of features; tadpoles, scalation, species comparisons, turtle scutes etc. Many are simply highly detailed close-ups of animals. All of these aspects really enhance the text and photos. In short, a highly recommended read before setting out on your trip to Las Guacamayas.
A Biological Assessment of Laguna Del Tigre National Park, Petén, Guatemala
Also worth a look is ‘A Biological Assessment of Laguna Del Tigre National Park, Peten, Guatemala’. One of a series of Rapid Assessment Programs, carried out by Conservation International and the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP) this provides an overview of the function and broad ecological categories of Laguna Del Tigre based on surveys carried out from four locations within the reserve; one of which is Estacion Biologicas Las Guacamayas. This is very much baseline survey information and makes no claim of completeness, being by it’s own admission ‘limited’. Happily for Indigo Expeditions the greatest species richness and abundance recorded during the survey were at/on the Rio San Pedro and Rio Sacluc – both of which will play a part in any visit to Las Guacamayas.
The only herp species discussed in any detail is Crocodylus moreletii; age categories, population densities and habitat use are all discussed. This species is also an Indigo favourite, being visible at times from the veranda outside the dining area at Las Guacamayas as well as a feature of both day and night time boat trips.
It’s not just herps though, for Indigo or this report. Summaries are provided for mammals (with a focus on bats), birds , fishes, ants and aquatic plants. Find the report here.
REVIEW: Gary Powell, October 2013
Image: Gary Powell with Milk snake – Lampropeltis triangulum at CCFC