A safari to find Pinocchio? Well, not exactly the one that comes to mind, but the elusive Pinocchio Lizard, thought to be extinct, has resurfaced in Ecuador! And no, this is not a lie.
After three years of searching for this oddity, a group of photographers and researchers from Tropical Herping; Paolo Escobar, Lucas Bustamante, Diana Troya and Alejandro Arteaga were finally able to document and photograph the Pinocchio lizard in January of this year.
What is a Pinocchio Lizard?
Dubbed the Pinocchio anole (an anole is a type of lizard), the animal was first discovered in 1953. But it wasn’t seen between the 1960s and 2005, when an ornithologist observed one crossing a road in the same remote area in northwest Ecuador. This is only the third time scientists have spotted it since 2005, Arteaga added. Known as the Ecuadorian Horned Anole, this bizarre creature earns its title because of a rhinoceros like protuberance that grows out of its snout.
Two young biologists/photographers in association with Tropic – Journeys in Nature are now hosting herping adventures into Ecuador’s cloud forest in search of close encounters with this creature, recently seen for just the third time in over 15 years.
The expeditions take place in the Mindo region of northwestern Ecuador, a mountainous, subtropical area located on the western slopes of the Andes, where two of the most biologically diverse eco-regions in the world meet: the Choco lowlands and the Tropical Andes which boast one of the greatest concentrations of bird species in the world (between 350-400 species) as well as 40 species of butterfly and 170 species of wild orchids.
Tropic’s herping excursions in a quest for the Pinocchio Lizard (aka Anoles Proboscis) begin in Quito and are available for groups of two or more participants, year round. The Pinocchio Lizard Expedition packages of four days/three nights start at $880 per person, double and include transportation, meals, expert English-speaking photographer/biologist guide, suite accommodations and guided activities. Included will be instruction in specialized field methods and photographic techniques for herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians).
“Examples like this are one of the many reasons I’ve loved working on conservation projects in Ecuador.” says Phil Torres who works with Tropic – Journeys in Nature throughout Ecuador researching and promoting unique conservation projects such as this. “There is a lot of excitement in these discoveries, and each region can offer something unique, from Pinocchio lizards to new species of glass frogs.”
About the Guides:
Alejandro Arteaga is an experienced and talented nature photographer and biology student from Venezuela. He has devoted the past five years to photographing reptiles and amphibians in the new world tropics, an activity he integrates with scientific research. Alejandro’s work as an investigator and photographer has been financed and supported by the zoology museum of the Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Cordillera Tropical foundation, and Amaru zoo.
Lucas Bustamante is a passionate biology student and wildlife photographer from Ecuador. For five years now, he has been fully dedicated to documenting Ecuador’s biodiversity, particularly reptiles and amphibians. A number of field trips, scientific articles and workshops have contributed to his thorough knowledge on tropical ecology and herpetology. Lucas’ work has been published in several local newspapers, magazines and educational books.
For more details on the discovery, click here.
About Tropic Journeys in Nature
Established in 1994, Tropic is an award–winning ecotourism company specializing in responsible, community-based tourism in Ecuador. Programs combine life-changing, active-but-cultural ecotourism experiences focusing on nature, conservation, diversity and sustainability.
Journeys in Nature offers sustainable guided nature and culture-focused tours throughout Ecuador in collaboration with conservationists groups and local communities.