Petr Myska

Petr Myska Releases the Second Edition of

His Extraordinary Field Guide to Local Fauna

By Ariel O’Donnell

arielod@hotmail.com

 

Biologist Petr Myska is a passionate advocate for the amazing biodiversity of the Bay of Banderas and surrounding regions. The long awaited second edition of his field guide to regional fauna: Viva Natura: Field Guide to the Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals of Western Mexico is hot off of the presses, and packed with 300 pages of photos and detailed descriptions in both Spanish and English. The second edition now has 230 species represented—a big leap from the first edition’s 160.

 

Myska talks about his first contact with this region, “I came to Vallarta for a visit in 2000, and was totally overwhelmed by the animal life here. It was almost too much to take in. I tried to identify the species effectively, but found that there was very little information documenting this area’s fauna. That’s when the inspiration hit me to create a website and field guide for visitors and residents of this region, At the time, I was living in Mexico City, so I traveled back and forth from there, taking photos, compiling data.”

 

The life of a biologist is one of dedication and hard work. Hours, days, months, spent alone in the wild, taking photos, and then hours more researching and compiling data on the animals. On top of that, Myska did the graphic layout and engineered the funding for the project himself. Fortuitously, a local organization, Banderas Bay Initiative, put him in contact with Fundacion Punta de Mita (a group funded by property owners in Punta de Mita) along with CONABIO (a government commission dedicated to supporting the biodiversity of Mexico) to finance the completion of the field guide’s second edition.

 

Myska’s fascination with nature began in the forests of the Czech Republic. His grandfather purchased a cabin right after WWII, and his family spent weekends and summers in the wild. “Our closest neighbor just happened to be a professor of zoology at Charles University in Prague, Jan Zdarek. As a child I roamed the forest finding different bugs and animals and would bring them to Jan, who then gave me in depth background of the species. You couldn’t ask for a better education.” Jan inspired Myska’s study of biology and animal species, and continued mentoring him throughout University and his 2 Masters Degrees. To this day, they continue to work on projects together.

 

Myska now lives in Puerto Vallarta, and loves having this extraordinary natural setting at his back door.  He explains, “In this relatively small area we have an abundance of different ecosystems: ocean, islands, beaches, estuaries, two types of tropical forests (deciduous and semi-deciduous) pine-oak forests and pine forests of higher altitudes. A one-hour drive from the Bay of Banderas to San Sebastian del Oeste encompasses all of these environments. Every ecosystem has its own vegetation cover and thus, different sets of species. Too, we are situated right in the center of what is referred to as the ‘gate to the New tropics’, a transition zone in between the temperate and tropical regions of the Americas .

 

And of course with the new technologies available an app was the next logical step, giving the user instant access to the same set of information contained in the book. His intention in the future is to grow this app buy inviting users to contribute additional animal species found in Mexico to the database. Myska and IT developer Hilda Camacho, owner and founder Sitisystems, worked together to create the app.

 

The field guide will be available by the end of the year, closely followed by the launch of the app. The book will be readily available throughout Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit.  Check out Myska’s website: vivanatura.org to find a location near you. Book cost: Retail price of $25 USD for the paperback, which includes 300 pages, 440 color photographs and 230 species of local animals. Anticipated cost for the app will be $99 pesos, and can be downloaded via the Apple App Store. Myska is also considering making an E-book available in the near future.

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4 comments

  1. What a great addition to field guides as it is indeed difficult to find the resources to identify Mexico’s rich biodiversity. Butterflies and Moths next?

  2. Hi Allen, I think it’s awesome that Gilberto has such a rehoiiansltp with that crocodile. It’s rare to see, but it’s not that surprising – crocs can in some situations become totally habituated to people, to such an extent that any aggressive or feeding behaviour becomes suppressed. One of our female crocodiles displays Poncho-like tendencies, insofar as I can interact with her on a basic level (touching her tail, body, head) without any negative reaction unless there’s food around. She was also “rescued” in a way, brought back from the brink of starvation before we got her, and it has probably permanently affected her behaviour. Whether Poncho is similar in that regard I can’t say as I don’t know the history behind it, but it’s one possibility. It may also simply be hard work and dedication by Gilberto to habituate the crocodile to his presence. Poncho may well view Gilberto as just another crocodile, not a threat, not as food, just there. The crocodile might even be submissive towards him, there are various possibilities. Size isn’t always the be all, end all with crocs in social situations.There are many examples where people have “tamed” crocodiles to varying degrees, although few are of Poncho’s size. The reasons behind that “taming” can vary, but it’s certainly possible with at least some individuals.Disposition varies enormously between different crocs. Some are hopelessly aggressive, supremely confident or highly-strung, others are calm to the point of being overly submissive, and various factors contribute to an animal’s disposition. How they were raised, genetic factors, stress levels, hunger, temperature, familiarity, and quite a few other things can influence their behaviour. Gilberto has clearly spent a lot of time with that crocodile, has learned to read its disposition and emotional state, has learned what signals to avoid, etc. It’s easy to say that the crocodile “trusts” Gilberto, and to some extent that’s probably true (Gilberto certainly trusts the crocodile!) but any way you look at it, it’s very cool.Our understanding of crocodiles has long been tethered to the notion that they’re “killing machines” without mercy, etc etc. This is a very old-fashioned and inaccurate way of looking at crocodiles, which are complex creatures capable of learning and exhibiting different emotional states. Now that people are looking at them with fresh eyes, we’re learning a lot more about them.

  3. The crocodile , also known as the lizard of the Nile, any of a family of large flesh eating lizard like reptiles living in the waters and on the muddy banks of tropical steams .. yep, sounds like Poncho.

    These and similar reptiles lived during the age of the dinosaurs. Some dinosaurs are said to have evolved into birds, however the crocodiles did not evolve into another species…. so their DNA and genome must be very stable

    However they all belong to the animal kingdom. And as the human animal have been known to believe that they of the opposite sex, or like their dog or cat, etc. , why cannot a crocodile who has been saved from starvation want to believe that it is a human animal ? Or perhaps in a prior life it was a human animal.

    But then, in England last year, a woman married her dog ,,, however, I would not recommend marrying a crocodile.

  4. I forgot to mention the reptilian brain in the human brainstem. And the brain in our gut from an ancient worm. And there are others also.. Thus it is very likely that both the reptile and the hominoid ( human) share a common ancestor back in time. There have been found hominoid footprints walking side by side with dinosaurs in petrified clay and sandstone (and perhaps crocodiles and dinosaurs also).

    Consider the giant humans dug up in the past that were up to 34 foot tall.. Would a plant eating dinosaur be a good pet, or a predator dinosaur for hunting , as men do with falcons today?

    And why not old Poncho for fetching fish, etc. ? Why not !.

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