Footage spotlight – Latin America

Footage spotlight – Latin America

Our latest footage spotlight falls on Latin America and especially rainforest, with new video from Laurie Hedges and Morley Read. We’ve also created a gallery of all the clips featured here and additional material, where you can explore more of our new Latin American footage.

Laurie Hedges looks at the rainforest of Panama and Costa Rica from different angles

Here we see a drone shot flying through and above rainforest on a mountain ridge in the Darien Gap in Panama. This primary rainforest extends all the way to the Colombian border. This is a wild region, where gigantic trees still exist that have disappeared from many other parts of central America.

Laurie has also submitted some great footage of the rainforest of Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica. As Laurie tells us: “Corcovado is a rainforest unlike any other. Poaching and habitat modification are now a distant memory in this refuge. It feels like walking into a primeval forest where wildlife is just waiting to be observed in its natural habitat.”

Here we see a panning shot looking up into the rainforest canopy.

We showcase more of Laurie’s clips, showing rainforest interiors and wildlife, from tapirs to army ants

To play any of the video, just click on the image and use the image info link to view.

We asked Laurie to tell us more about his rainforest material. Here’s what he told us about the clips in the gallery above:

“This gigantic tree in Corcovado National Park featured a natural hole where hundreds of bats roost during the day time, emerging to forage at night.

“Quetzals, once revered by ancient American civilisations, have a continuing relationship with people in the Cordillera Talamanca in Costa Rica. Here locals have formed a co-operative to sustainably share their land with both quetzals and people seeking to catch a glimpse of them. This clip shows a male Resplendant quetzal.”

“Three toed sloths are frequent inhabitants of the volcano tenorio landscape of Costa Rica, where ecosystems between the Caribbean and Pacific coast merge in a unique combination. Here we see a slow motion sequence of a sloth moving from one tree to another in the windy canopy.”

Army ants roam free in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica, acting as if they are the sole guardians of the forest floor. They are accompanied by a cohort of birds, which pick off insects fleeing from the marching troops.”

“This female Baird’s tapir scratching herself on a log in Corcovado National Park was completely unconcerned by me following her for several hours. The region has had no poaching for long enough now, that wildlife has become used to humans sharing their forest.”

Finally this young tapir show us what a wonderfully sensitive, prehensile snout it has!

As Laurie explains: “This juvenile Baird’s tapir in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica, was following its mother through a wild and primeval forest. Here there are few of the man-made dangers present for its species elsewhere in Central America.”


Morley Read is a biologist with extensive fieldwork experience in South America.

He has recently sent us a great variety of footage from Ecuador, including rainforest wildlife and volcanos in action, showing the effects of global warming.

We asked Morlety to tell us more about the background to this dramatic panning shot: “Here at 4,500m altitude I am at the highest point of Cotopaxi Volcano that has vehicular access. Behind me is the snow-capped summit of Cotopaxi and I am looking northwards to the peaks of the eastern cordillera.  Decades ago Sincholagua (seen at end of pan) had glaciers up to 1.5kms in length, but it now consists of bare rock. Only occasionally, as in this shot, does Sincholagua have a covering of snow.”

Ecuador is rich in volcanos. Here Morley shows contrasting footage of Cotopaxi (Ecuador’s highest mountain) and the constantly erupting Reventador. To play the videos, just click on the image info link to access the video preview.

Morley explains the context behind his video of Cotopaxi and Reventador volcanos

“I visit Cotopaxi Volcano quite frequently as it is a short drive from my home. I have noticed the glaciers retreating considerably in the 20+ years I have lived in Ecuador. However, here the mountain is covered in fresh snow, with steaming fumaroles indicating the volcano is still active.

Reventador volcano has been erupting daily for the past 18 years, but is in an area of very heavy rainfall and is usually concealed in the clouds. To get this shot I had to get up before dawn followed by a steep climb to the viewpoint. I was lucky enough to film several eruptions before the clouds rolled in. I stayed at a hotel conveniently close to the viewpoint, but in danger of being completely obliterated by pyroclastic flows in a major eruption.”

Frogs and toads of Ecuador

Morley has supplied some great footage of a variety of Ecuador’s rich amphibian fauna, much of it highly endangered.  We lead with a slow motion clip of a Guacamayo plump toad walking.

Morley told us more about how he was able to obtain this footage: “It was a gruelling 2 day climb uphill to reach this scenic location on the slopes of Sumaco Volcano, but well worth it. We found these small toads to be very abundant here. Sadly, little forest is left in the remainder of this species’ range, and it is therefore considered endangered.”

Ecuador has a varied and spectacular species list of frogs and toads. Morley has managed to film quite a number of species and covered some intriguing behaviour. To play any of the video links in the gallery below, just click on image info when you enlarge the image.

Here’s what Morley told us about the background to his amphibian video and the species shown

“The bizarre crested toad is quite common in the rainforest. Its ornamentation helps to conceal it in the leaf litter on the forest floor.

We found this South American toad on a night walk during an amphibian survey in Yasuni National Park. The following day I let it leap a few times for the camera before it escaped back into the forest.

This leaf frog is normally considered a very rare species, but it has built up a large population in the Jatun Sacha Reserve. Large numbers of tadpoles inhabit a concrete water cistern under the toilet block.  Their usual breeding sites, pools of water trapped in fallen hollow trees, are few and far between.  I persuaded this individual to do a few jumps before releasing it back into the forest.

I was very pleased to find this stubfoot toad, as it was the first Andean Atelopus species I had seen since my first visits to Ecuador in the 1980s. Since then, most of the 25 Ecuadorian species have been driven close to extinction.

The last two clips show development of eggs and tadpoles

While they only occur in the Cordillera del Condor and are listed as endangered, we found a thriving population of these monkey frogs in some bushes surrounding a pond on a cattle farm. This species is likely to cope better with habitat destruction than most others, which are dependent on primary forest. We collected some nests to rear in the lab in Quito and I was able to obtain a sequence of stages of egg development.

I encountered this glass frog nest overhanging a forest stream in the Cordillera del Condor in the southern Ecuadorian Amazon. The frog fauna here is only recently being documented, but at the same time large areas of forest have been lost to mining and colonisation. Hence the future of this exceptionally biodiverse area is uncertain.”

Other Ecuadorian wildlife

Morley’s video portfolio covers a wide variety of other Ecuadorian wildlife. He has filmed creatures of all sizes, from millipedes and leafcutter ants to lizards, snakes and the very cute mouse opossum. We lead with a close-up of a millipede moving along a forest branch, showing its efficient locomotion.

Here’s a gallery of some more of Morley’s Ecuadorian rainforest wildlife footage. To play the video, just enlarge the image and click on the image info link in the gallery below.

Here are Morley’s stories from behind the camera, which reveal how he shot this video

“These whiptail lizards were basking in sun flecks on the forest floor on our study site in Yasuni National Park. But they were much too fast to catch until we found this one sleeping on a leaf at night. We took it back to the lab for photography before releasing it the following day at the same site. This clips shows the membrane closing over the eye.

We found this flat snake while carrying out a reptile and amphibian survey in Yasuni National Park. It was coiled in a tangle of bromeliads.

I came across this small mouse opossum while looking for frogs at night in a remote part of the Ecuadorian Amazon. It remained quite still while I set up the camera and lights to film it.

Ecuador is rich in insect and invertebrate species

Warm wet weather had provoked a mass emergence of Pierid butterflies in a muddy area of an oilfield surrounded by rainforest.

This trail of leafcutter ants was conveniently close to the Yasuni Research Station in the Ecuadorian Amazon. One day I noticed them carrying yellow flowers so I quickly ran back for  the camera and took this series off shots.

I found this spider spinning its cocoon on a moonlit night in the rainforest during a visit to Jatun Sacha Reserve in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  Many invertebrates and amphibians hide during the full moon but I noticed several of these spiders actively spinning.

Lantern flies are one of my favourite invertebrates, but I have only seen them occasionally. The lights of the research station attracted this one, so I was able to get some studio shots before releasing it.”

Winter 2019-2020 video highlights gallery

To explore the full gallery of Winter 2019-2020 video highlights, including this Latin American material, click here.