Again we woke up about 5:30am. My injured foot was really painful. I wasn’t sure if the tenderness was from it being crushed or from a developing infection but this had to be the last day of the hunt. However, I managed to convince my partner to allow me to continue searching for a few more hours before packing up and trying to get back to civilization.
When we got to the river, the water had receded further and was much more clear. Apparently the storm from the first day of the trip had impeded our search to a greater extent than we had realized.
We decided to go back upstream, noodling for the cryptic critters. I really felt miserable but I still had to smile a bit when we came across the toad we’d met the day before, in a still zen-like manner, sitting on the same in rock in the same position we last saw it in.
By 8:45 I became a bit nauseous and felt like I had a fever. It was definitely time to quit and try to find some medical treatment. Very reluctantly I began heading back to the tent.
At 9:24am, when we were about 1 minute from the camp site, right at the point we would be exiting the river, I saw it as my partner walked right past it. It wasn’t under a rock nor was it in a shadowy pool. It looked like a flabby brown infant as it was crawling right out in the open and straight towards me! I momentarily thought I was hallucinating. Finally, Andrias japonicus!
After directing my partner’s attention to it and some unintelligible happy yelling on her part, we sat and observed it for the next half hour as we basked in its cryptobranchid-ey awesomeness until it got swept out of sight by the current. I’d wanted to see one of these critters in-situ ever since I was 10 years old. The locals’ previous discouragement and repeatedly telling us it couldn’t be done made this find all the more sweet.*
Time for a post-giant-salamander-finding nap, then it's time to seek proper medical treatment.
Last year, I had a week off from work in the middle of August, which happened to coincide with the beginning of Japanese Giant Salamander breeding season. I didn’t have anything better to do, so I talked a friend into accompanying me on a trip to search for Andrias japonicus in Oita prefecture, the only region of Kyushu known to harbor these awesome caudates. I’d seen live specimens of A.japonicus, A.davidianus (Chinese Giant Salamander) and Cryptobranchus alleganiensis (the awesomely named Hellbender) in museums and zoos, but I was determined to observe a giant salamander in-situ.
Our plan was to take a train as close as we could get to the area where the salamanders are known to occur, walk the rest of the way (about 20 miles) to the site and camp out until we found the critters.
the route walked from Usa Station to our intended destination.
An hour into our walk, we came to Usa shrine. With ponds and plenty of vegetation, there was herping to be done.
Glandirana rugosa. Common names: Wrinkled-Frog , ツチガエル (tsuchigaeru)
Fejervarya limnocharis. Common names: Alpine Cricket Frog/ ヌマがエル(numagaeru)