In 1968, the Dutch herpetologist Marinus Hoogmoed discovered a remarkable new species of frog living in Suriname’s remote Sipaliwini savannahs. He called it Dendrobates azureus after its stunning azure-blue skin. The Trio Indians, in whose territory Hoogmoed was traveling and who had known of the frog’s existence for centuries, already had a name for it. They called it okopipi.
Today, okopipi is considered one of the most vulnerable frog species on earth. The total wild population is thought to be no more than 300 individuals, and they can only be found in the valleys of the Four Brothers of Mamia, a small mountain range on the Surinamese border with Brazil.
When I first heard of this “blue jewel of the jungle,” I realized it might be the perfect metaphor for a country so ecologically, economically and politically fragile, the elusive spirit of The Last Eden. So I began planning an expedition to find it.
Little did I know how difficult, dangerous and ultimately humbling this journey would be.
(photo: Russell Mittermeier)