A Costa Rican Rainforest by Dylan Sheets
A thin breeze whistled through the early morning light that shone on a dazzling sunrise of reds, pinks and golds. The sunrise was like an old friend saying “hello,” waking up the cloud forest. The rain from the previous night now covered the leaves and shimmered like priceless glass. A thin mist hung over the forest. Somewhere up the mountain in the mist a Great Green Macaw called out and a Dink Frog croaked. A Ringed Tree Boa slithered up a tree after a nighttimes’ hunting and disappeared in the leafy branches of an Almendro tree. Down on the forest floor Leaf-cutter Ants were scuttling over rocks and dead leaves tirelessly holding their harvest aloft.
But this peaceful silence was interrupted by an obnoxious whirring noise. It got louder and louder until a bunch of elephant ear leaves were ripped out of the way of a monstrous vehicle. The monster stopped and the noise ceased. Two doors opened and a pair of grubby looking men stepped out. They each wore a pair of dirty, torn, jeans and muddy t-shirts. One of them had on a junky looking baseball cap and the other was smoking a cigar. The larger of the two walked over to a grove of Mahogany trees and looked around. “What do you say, Arber?” said the smaller man. “Should we take it or leave it?” Arber looked around some more. Then he said “We’ll take it, Matt.” Then he laughed and said, “Wait till the boss sees this!” Then he got back in the car still laughing. Matt got in the car too, and then they drove away.
It seemed like an hour before anything moved again. A Rhinoceros Beetle buzzed over to a Baktrix Palm, and a Red-lored Parrot screeched. But there was a still silence as if every animal could sense danger in the air, and there was no way to stop it from coming. Far away in a hole inside an Avocado Tree in a nest of sticks and leaves and down were three strange looking eggs. A beautiful green bird with a red underbelly and a few white tail feathers underneath some green ones was sitting on them. Every once in a while she’d reach down and turn over her eggs.
Outside the hole suddenly another beautiful emerald bird with a ruby red belly and amazingly long tail feathers swooped toward the nest. He landed on the ledge and reached in with a small wild Avocado in his beak. He deposited the fruit in his mate’s mouth. She thankfully gobbled the tasty treat and spit the large seed out. Then the male Quetzal chirped and flew back off to find food.
Meanwhile, down on the forest floor, a large, prehistoric looking animal was foraging for food, too. The creature had three-toed feet, small ears, a petite tail, shy eyes, and a trunk-like nose. The tapir looked up and grunted. A smaller tapir with white stripes and spots trotted over to her out of the brush. She sniffed her baby with her trunk-like nose, grunted, and then went back to foraging. Her baby followed her along a deer trail until they reached a river. The baby felt his mother tense and look around for signs of danger. The baby just frolicked down the bank toward the river. He reached down and started guzzling up the water. His mother lifted her keen nose in the air and quickly let out a terrified grunt and galloped up the bank. The baby heard his mother’s danger grunt and lifted his head in her direction.
But even as the baby started trotting up the bank, there was a huge splash spraying water in every direction. Quick as lightning, the huge, scaly, head of an enormous Black Caiman came crashing out of the water toward the unprotected baby, mouth gaping. The monster came crashing toward the baby, but at the last second it realized that the baby was too far up the bank, and there was too much of it’s massive body still in the water. The mighty beast came crashing down and smashed into a tree root. The baby bleated loudly as the creature landed inches from his neck. He ran up the bank towards his mother, but the caiman wasn’t finished yet. It crawled up the bank toward the tapirs hungry as ever. The mother tapir whistled and backed away into the brush. Her baby dashed after her bleating. The caiman finally accepted that he would have to find lunch elsewhere and slithered back into the water.
The mother tapir didn’t stop running until she reached the Quetzal’s tree. Her baby came galloping after her terrified and finally stopped, panting. He had yet to learn that water is just as dangerous as land and is a world full of predators.
Somewhere up the tree the female Quetzal chirped her displeasure at the panting tapirs. The mother tapir lifted her head sniffed and seemed to decide that the danger was gone. She grunted scolding her baby and then the pair trotted off into the forest.
Meanwhile, up in the canopy a troop of Spider Monkeys was enjoying the tasty fruit. There were also many babies in this group, and most of them were clinging to their mothers’ backs. Two monkey brothers were straying from their mother. The two were unwisely trying to touch a yellow Side-striped Palm Pit Viper that was hissing angrily at them. Every time they tried to touch him he would hiss and get into a striking position. Then the monkeys would jump back as if it were a terribly fun game. When their mother looked over at them and saw what they were doing, she screeched and swung over to them. She angrily scooped them up and put them on her back and leaped back to the group scolding her naughty babies. The annoyed Pit Viper slithered away to find a quieter spot to rest.
The dominant Spider Monkey not so much as lifted an eyelid at the brothers and then went back to sleep. But the brothers were far from sleep. As their mother started to groom them, they each started to pull away until their mother finally gave up and sat back in the crook of the fig tree, this time keeping an eye on them. The two mischief makers swung and leaped through the fig trees until they reached a strange tree that seemed made out of vines in the shape of a tree. The monkey brothers looked on in wonder at the unusual sight. One of the monkey brothers finally shinnied down their tree and cautiously approached the weird thing from the ground. When he reached the strangler fig tree he sat down and peered through a hole in the vine (seeing as there were many) and to his surprise he found the inside to be completely hollow! Never had he seen a hollow tree like this. And he quickly scrambled inside. The brother, who could not stand his brother having fun without him, screeched and leaped from his tree. He crumpled to the ground, but only to jump up and bound toward the strangler fig tree. He did not peek inside, but scrambled through the hole toward his brother. He and his brother looked around at the mysterious wonder.
Then all of a sudden they heard a twig snap, and then a growl. They leaped around and looked right into the face of an Ocelot! The cat growled again and started creeping toward the brothers low to the ground in a pouncing position. The smaller monkey brother started clambering up the tree and grabbed his brother by the scruff of his neck pulling him upward. His brother got the message and started shinnying up the inside of the tree, too. The hungry Ocelot, not eager to lose his lunch, scrambled through the gap and tore up the tree toward the unfortunate brothers. The feline’s jaws missed the first monkey by centimeters. But just as the Ocelot grabbed for another foothold, his front paws slipped and he fell backwards down through the tree toward the jagged remains of the old original host tree.
The monkeys didn’t give the Ocelot a second glance. They scrambled up the tree and out through a hole in the strangler fig tree. The screeching brothers swung toward their tree as fast as they were worth. When they finally reached their troop, they scrambled toward their mother. One leaped on her back and one grabbed her tummy. The mother reached down and sniffed them. She suddenly screeched at the first monkey, who jumped from her belly and into the branches away from her. She then turned to the other one, fuming. He got the message and scrambled after his brother. His mother glared after him but finally went back to the fig fruit she was munching.
Miles away, at the bottom of a cloud forest mountain, a familiar and terrible noise began startling a Giant Banded Anole lizard. A large vehicle came crashing through the brush towards a certain grove of Mahogany trees. The car stopped and two doors opened and Arber and Matt got out. Arber walked over to the trunk of the car and lifted the lid. He reached inside and pulled out twelve, crude, metal, cages and two chain saws. He then set these on the ground and walked over to the side of the car. He opened the door, and a thin man stepped out. He had on a pair of spotless, black, expensive looking pants. He was also wearing a blue tie, a white, buttoned shirt, and a black sport coat. His hair was jet black, and his gray eyes had a cold, dangerous, look to them. He was not smiling as he stepped out of the car and surveyed his surroundings. When he finally spoke his voice was like a hissing fire. “When was the last time you were here?”
“This morning Mr. Vexloe.” said Matt. Matt and Arber both seemed intimidated by their boss. Mr. Vexloe nodded as if he understood, then he hissed at his men, “Get to work you lazy brats, you know what to do.” Arber and Matt obediently jogged to the back and picked up two tranquilizer dart guns and grabbed a few sacks and started of into the jungle.
“Shhhh!” said Arber. Then he pointed up. Sitting on a branch fifty feet above was a partly obscured, beautiful, Keel-billed Toucan. Matt grinned at Arber and aimed his gun at the Toucan. Matt fired. The dart whizzed toward the bird as quick as lightning. His aim was true. The Toucan was pushed as if getting blasted by a strong wind current as the dart struck its breast. The bird landed on another branch confused. Matt made a triumphant fist. Five minutes later the groggy bird, so exhausted by the drug, toppled of its perch unconscious. Matt caught his prize and stuck the Toucan in one of the sacks. He put the sack in his large pack. Then the two hunters proceeded. In the next few hours they caught an Agouti, a Collared Anteater, two Nine-banded Armadillos, a Howler Monkey, and four Spider Monkeys using sonar technology from which the poor animals could not hide.
Arber lugged the bulging bag and also had to carry the four sacks containing the Agouti, the four Spider Monkeys, and the Howler Monkey, while Matt tranquilized them and put them in the sack for Arber. Matt looked back down at the radar scanner. His eyes were peeled for animals.
Suddenly he saw the biggest animal yet. A large, warm-blooded shape, was twitching at the base of a hollow Strangler Fig tree fifty yards away. He grinned and motioned Matt to follow him. As he walked toward the spot at the base of the fig tree, he kept checking the radar screen until he reached the opposite side of the tree. He put the radar in his pocket and carefully peeked around at the opposite base of the tree. He saw a sight that stunned him. A majestic Ocelot was lying against the tree licking her right leg which was bent at and odd position.
“An injured Ocelot!” thought Matt. “What a rare find!’’ He carefully lifted the dart gun to his shoulder and inserted a dart. He then waited for the right moment, and when it came, he jumped out from behind the tree and shot the gun. He missed by a fraction of an inch. The startled Ocelot jumped up and dashed out of the clearing and into the wet forest. “AAAARRRRGGG!!!” roared Matt as he fumbled with the dart to load again and still trying to follow the frightened feline. He ran after the Ocelot and just as it jumped over a fallen tree, he took aim and shot it in the rump.
The Ocelot leaped three feet in the air then groggily crumpled. Matt ran excitedly toward his catch as Arber jogged after him. “Aha!” he said triumphantly. Matt stuffed it in another bag then handed it to Arber who slung it over his shoulder. “Now lets go, we’re trespassing in the children’s rainforest.”
“What’s so bad about that?” asked Arber. “Are you kidding me?” said Matt. “They’ve got guards combing the place!” “If we get caught, we’re no better off than the animals we just captured.” “Fine,” said Arber “Let’s go, somebody might have heard you.” Matt and Arber jogged back in silence. An hour and a half later they reached the place where they parked their vehicle. The exhausted Arber dragged the fat bag and four sacks over to Mr. Vexloe.
“So?” hissed Mr. Vexloe, “What have you brought me?” “One Agouti, a Toucan, a Collared Anteater, two Nine-banded Armadillos, a Howler Monkey, four Spider Monkeys, and an Ocelot,” said Matt.
“Good,” said Mr. Vexloe. “Now you shall deal with the lumber.” He nodded at two chainsaws. Mat and Arber walked over and put the sacks down. They then picked up the chainsaws and walked over to the grove of Mahogany trees. Arber flicked the switch on his revving up the engine as he started sawing into the tree. Grrrrrrrrrr! All of a sudden a growl split the air. Arber quickly turned off his saw and looked around.
“What was that?’’ asked Matt. “Go back to work, it’s just the engine.” Arber and Matt shrugged, then started again. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! “Jumpin’ peccaries!” said Matt “That’s no engine!” “Go back to work!” roared Mr. Vexloe. Matt and Arber cautiously went back to work. ROOOAAARRRRR!!! Just then an elegant Jaguar leaped from the bushes and turned toward the men. “AAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” screamed Matt and Arber. Mr. Vexloe toppled over in surprise. Matt and Arber ran to the car, without turning off their chainsaws. They leaped in the vehicle, revving up the engine, and drove away like crazed maniacs. The Jaguar turned to Mr. Vexloe and growled. That was all Mr. Vexloe needed. He scrambled up and dashed after them shouting “Waaaiiitt!!! Wait for me!!!!!!”
The Jaguar closed her mouth and walked back into the bushes. She returned a moment later with two cubs. The little baby jaguars had small spots and large curious eyes. They tumbled out of the clearing, followed by their protective mother. A few minutes later something brown and furry came swinging toward the forgotten animals. The Spider Monkey brother crawled over to the bulging bag and peered inside. He jumped back as two Armadillos jumped out, closely followed by a Collared Anteater and a Toucan. He then peered inside each sack whose inhabitant clambered out gratefully. When the monkey opened the Spider Monkey sack, his friends bounded out joyfully. The silent Ocelot slunk away into the night. All was peaceful in the cloud forest, and forever it will be.
Hiking in Monteverde, Costa Rica By Merran Waller
I couldn’t believe what I saw as I hiked into the bellbird sanctuary, La Calandria, in Costa Rica. The lush green trees and vines sparkled in the bright sun from the rain. I heard the piercing bonks that came from the loudest bird in the world, the Three-wattled Bellbird. Every morning at 5:30 I would wake up to their call and follow my mom and our leader on a secluded trail. As the sun rose, the forest became ablaze with birds calling, and monkeys swinging from branch to branch.
Mixed with bonks from the Bellbird was an ooh-oohing noise. White-faced capuchin monkeys jumped high in the canopy. As we walked, a flash of blue crossed the path and swooped back to flutter above our heads. The blue morpho butterfly flew off as I pulled out my camera, leaving me in a state of awe. I was amazed to see so much biodiversity in such a small area.
One afternoon, silently fluttering on the trail, was a puddle of glass wing butterflies. Not until I crouched down could I see their fragile bodies and their magnificent transparent wings. I finally got to take a photo of one drinking from a flower. I had to look very carefully to find these amazing, beautiful creatures.
To me my camera is a friend. I always have it when I go exploring. Photography helps me see the beauty in nature and teaches me to look closely. I really want to use my love of photography and nature to buy rainforest land in the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and save animals. So I helped start The Forever Forest Group. Now lots of kids in Vermont, England and Missouri help make and sell photo note cards for the forest. I hope that the Bellbirds keep bonking forever!