Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The stage is set. Andres, the young Tico biologist, born and bred in Costa Rica, intimately familiar with the wealth of animal diversity that his home country has to offer, has challenged Jon, the Brit zoologist, veteran of campaigns all over Africa, New Zealand, Australia and many years of studying the wildlife of the UK, to a spotting contest. In this contest (with terms and conditions carefully laid out and signed by the competitors), whoever spots the most positively identified species of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian is declared the winner. The loser suffers the indignity of having his leg waxed. Andres is a herpetology specialist (reptiles and amphibians) whilst Jon is a keen birdwatcher. Both have an undeniable passion and enthusiasm for wildlife. The contest captured the interest of just about everyone on base. This was 9 weeks ago.
The time is up. At the halfway point in the contest the Tico was ahead but two weeks ago the Brit had pulled it back by a single species. Things could not be closer. I (the Brit) was feeling happy. I had a good week, in which I was treated to the sights of White-nosed Coati, Northern Raccoon and Orange-chinned Parakeets amongst others. I was not confident though.
In the end though, there could only be one. The two contestants lined up by the whiteboard, pens in hand and proceeded to write down their scores at the same time.

And there it was – TICO 234 vs. BRIT 228.
The local boy had done it.

The scores were very close and really it could have gone either way and I was proud to shake my colleagues hand and submit myself to the not-so-bad process of having part of my leg waxed.
The contest was a lot of fun but it was also quite a drain for both contestants. I’m not normally very competitive about things (completely the opposite for Andres of course), but spotting animals is one of the things I actually do pride myself at being good at. Both Andres and I confess to each other that it was getting to the point where we were actually willing each other not to see anything and feeling quite bitter when one of us would come back with a great sighting. We were also not announcing some of our sightings in the fear that it would tip the other off! Still it was a good way to send off the Tico who will sadly no longer be with us for the next phase and we can both go back to enjoying and sharing our stories of encountering the wild and wonderful creatures of Costa Rica.



Sarah said...

This is great! I miss it!