California Academy of Sciences
Cliffs at Lagoa Azul
The cracks in these cliffs are teeming with scorpions: Lagoa Azul. Photo by Joel Ledford.

Dispatch Number Four - April 30, 2001
Text by Fabio Penny, Computer Services

Friday, 04.27.01, 2100 hours
Lagoa Azul, Northern São Tomé

00º 24' 23.0"N, 006º 36' 35.8E


We had been told not to expect to find scorpions on São Tomé. However, while tending mist nets in our efforts to survey bats, we had time to search for them in likely places. Joel Ledford, who had arrived Tuesday, minus his luggage, proclaimed the site an ideal potential "scorp spot." The cracks in the rock face in the basalt cliffs of Lagoa Azul proved his instincts correct. Three individuals were collected, two females and one male, probably in the family Buthidae. While not a particularly venomous group, they made us more vigilant about where we put our feet.

Sao Tome Scorpion
Yes, there are scorpions in São Tomé! Photo by Joel Ledford.

Saturday, 04.28.01, 1000 hours
São Tomé home base

Guilhereme "Gigi" Neto, local TV anchorman and SteP UP board member, interviewed members of our group for tonight's newscast. We held an old-fashioned "Show and Tell". Bob thanked local ministers (Agriculture, Environment, etc..), ECOFAC, Step UP and the local community for their help and continued warm reception. Tomio spoke of already having collected more fish species than have been recorded in over 100 years. Ricka spoke about caecilians and our attempt to unravel the mystery of how they came to reside here. Joel took the opportunity to show live scorpions and talk about their characteristics. We were fortunate to have Bermicio, nicknamed "Sapos", speak of his adventures with our group hunting frogs and day geckos. Next was Tino spreading the message of conservation through his own personal experience seining rivers, exploring tree buttresses and caverns with our group. Douglas also provided the TV crew with an active live bat for the occasion. Lastly, Ned spoke eloquently in Portuguese about our efforts to "explore and explain" emphasizing the importance of community and foreign collaborations for the greater good.

Sao Tome television
Another day, another interview. Photo by Fabio Penny.

1300 hours
It's often a hit or miss situation when needing to get gas in São Tomé. After going to several gas stations, we opted to leave one car behind. Meanwhile, the rest of the team headed south, past Angolares, to review a couple of small rivers for Tomio.

As the story goes, a ship sank near a small set of islands SE of present-day Persevaranca (Perseverance) called Sete Piedras (Seven Rocks). The Angolan slaves/passengers swam the 5km (3.1 miles) to the São Toméan coast and established the town of Angolares further north. A creole form of Portuguese was developed by these settlers, and to this day the dialect is still present in the area. The city today serves as a center for the arts, with its fine restaurants and galleries. Its special qualities can be easily compared to that of New Orleans, Louisiana.

1500 hours
After waiting a while, and now with a full tank of gas, Norm and Dong headed to the English Arts and Cultural Center to document Dani's (one of our guides) graduation from English School. The two met with Ned and also Jennifer Edwards, a former World Bank representative and all-around wonderful person. A representative from the Taiwanese government was there and invited Dong and the group to dinner at some later time. The rest of the team returned from the southern coast with few specimens, but having dined well. The rich culinary tradition of the south coast emphasized "tentacular" fare. Octopus and other fine seafood have sustained us throughout our stay.

Antlion pits construction site
Pits are used by antlions (Myrmeleontidae myrmeleon) as a mechanism for capturing their prey, such as ants. Photo by Fabio Penny For the second time in a week, a construction site leads to new discoveries. Photo by Fabio Penny.

Sunday, 04.29.01, 0600
Across the street from our home base
Norm went looking for antlion (Myrmeleontidae myrmeleon) pits at a construction site across the street. Antlions had never been reported on either São Tomé or Principé. Norm now has the first specimens ever collected from both islands! There must have been a thousand pits surrounding the half-built house. Six individuals were collected and further analysis will be done back at the Academy. This was a great start to the day, entomologically speaking.

Lagoa Azul

0º 24' 23.0"N, 006º 36' 35.8"E
We have visited Lagoa Azul quite often, but find it fascinating every time. We were able to collect 12 green lacewings (Chrysopidae) on broad-leafed leguminous trees. This series produced 10 small, but beautifully spotted lacewings and two others resembling the much larger type collected at Bom Sucesso. Our thought is that due to the strong winds, and the insect's relatively short flight path, they prefer to reside on the leeward side of these trees.

We also found several more skinks (Mabuya), and endemic geckos (Hemidactylus greefi) running along the rocks. We have had great success at this location, and in commemoration we took a swim in the warm, shallow waters of Lagoa Azul.


The Rainshadow Effect

By definition, the rainshadow effect occurs when prevailing winds lose their moisture as they rise against a mountainside, thus when the same cloud descends on the opposite side of the mountain, the air is much drier. Lagoa Azul is a great example of this. On the wetter southeast side, cacao plantations once flourished, whereas on the northwest the vegetation is much drier, as exemplified by the Baobab trees which are more conducive to the relatively drier environment. Due to the staggering amount of rainfall that occurs in the area, vegetation still exists on the northwest side.


Hills at Lagoa Azul
The hills at Lagoa Azul provide for varied vegetation. Photo by Joel Ledford.

1300 hours

Dong Lin
Ned's kitchen will never be the same … watch out! Photo by Joel Ledford.
We arrive back at homebase and relax. Bob, Tomio and Doug have begun the arduous packing process while the rest of us prepared for the traditional going-away dinner feast. Dong is our resident chef, and he did not let us down. He prepared a 5-course meal: a greens soup to begin, followed by 2 dishes of pork in different sauces, then came the "triple-funky" (a.k.a. Thrice-Funked") chicken and finally the marinated snapper. Bravo, Dong!

Monday, 04.30.01
São Tomé home base
Heavy rains poured in the morning, and this was a sign of more to come. The team went out to Allen's family land and set over twenty pitfall traps. The evaporating rain created a very hot sauna for us. Still, the traps are set and now we wait, an activity known as "passive collecting." Ricka was able to collect several more specimens. This day of relative rest was well deserved. Plans were discussed about what to do and where to go, but it's difficult to determine at the moment due to Sarah Spaulding's (Diatom specialist) unscheduled delay in Lisbon.




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