Wild Lunch: Championing Dwarf Geckos in Colombia

Charlotte.Coales

We're venturing further afield for our final events in the Wild Lunch Wednesdays series, hearing from conservationists based outside of the UK.  That's the great thing about running online events, speakers can join us from anywhere in the world!  I have, however, been particularly grateful for everyone’s flexibility in getting up early/working late... juggling different time zones has been interesting!

For this week's event, I was joined by Liliana Saboyá Acosta, an infectiously enthusiastic conservationist and PhD student based in Bogotá, Colombia.  Lili got up at the crack of dawn to share her fieldwork experiences with us, describing the tropical dry forests where she works and the very special reptile she is helping to conserve - the Colombian Dwarf Gecko (Lepidoblepharis miyatai or 'Lepi' as she fondly refers to them!)  

If you missed the event, you can watch again here:

Lili first joined ZSL's ranks a few years ago, when she applied for a place on ZSL's EDGE of Existence Fellowship programme.  These two-year Fellowships are awarded to future conservation leaders (EDGE Fellows) working on poorly-known EDGE species (animals that are evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered), helping to build conservation capacity in regions where these species occur. 

Since completing her Fellowship, Lili has received a continuation grant from the EDGE programme (funded by Foundation Segre) to continue her important work with the Colombian dwarf gecko in and around the Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, in northern Colombia.

We received some great viewer questions during Lili's event but ran out of time to answer them all.  So, here are Lili's responses to your remaining questions...

Q. Have you had any exciting wildlife encounters while doing fieldwork?
A. Yes!  We have some great encounters, mainly with snakes and venomous snakes (such as Porthidium lansgbergii and Bothrops asper) that are present in the tropical dry forest. Other animals that are interesting to see during the fieldwork are monkeys, including Howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus) and Titi monkeys (Saguinus oedipus).  Any field trip always brings new and different surprises, one day to another is never the same.

Q. What made you want to work with wildlife in this area?
A. Each ecosystem is undoubtedly unique. But I have a passion for extreme ecosystems, and the tropical dry forest is certainly extreme. Observing the way in which the animals and plants have adapted to these conditions of drought, water stress, and high temperatures most of the year, makes me admire and appreciate the life that inhabits it, including my cute Lepi!

Two Colombian Dwarf Geckos next to a coin

Q. I know most people in Colombia live in large cities – how do you educate people about this species to spread awareness?
A. Yes!  I forgot to mention during the event that, thanks to our interaction with other institutions in the city of Santa Marta, we have been able to start making approaches with the community of the city of Santa Marta. We have had talks with other associations that seek to protect one of the main rivers of the city and with them we have been visiting several neighbourhoods in the city and starting to get to know our gecko and give informative talks for the conservation of reptiles.

Listen to a wonderful and catchy song that has been written to raise local awareness of the Colombian Dwarf Gecko.

Q. Are the indigenous people open to your research and ideas?
A. Generally, they are open to issues related to wildlife conservation. Unfortunately, the pandemic has not allowed us a greater interaction with the association of indigenous peoples of the sierra, but it is one of the activities that we are most waiting to resume, since the distribution of our species is in areas where we find the presence of indigenous peoples.

Conservationist Liliana Saboyá Acosta (centre) and colleagues smile for the camera
Conservationist Liliana Saboyá Acosta (centre) and colleagues

Q. How has ZSL helped your research?
A. Very much!  All the support received by them has been invaluable to me. The EDGE programme has been the greatest support I have received for the conservation of my beloved Lepi, but they have also been an important pillar in my training as a conservationist on a personal and professional level. I am eternally grateful to the entire EDGE team and ZSL in this process.

Join us for our final Wild Lunch of the series (Tigers in Nepal) at 12.30 BST on Wednesday 28 April 2021, where we'll be hearing from ZSL conservationist Pawan Gautam, as he describes his fieldwork experiences in the national parks and surrounding areas of western Nepal.  

WATCH Wild Lunch: TIGERS IN NEPAL

 

ZSL’s EDGE of Existence Programme is kindly supported by Fondation Segré, investing in the next generation of conservation leaders.

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