Discovering Our Tropical Treasures

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By Lina Younes

Recently, I went to Puerto Rico to visit my elderly parents who were celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary. While I was there for a short period of time, I wanted to help them with errands and issues that had to be resolved. Since I didn’t plan my visit to Puerto Rico as “a vacation,” I spent most of my time running errands in the San Juan metropolitan area. When I found a four hour time slot with nothing pressing to do, I decided I was going to take my parents on “an adventure.” Why not connect with nature and visit a tropical wonder away from the maddening crowd? So, we drove to El Yunque, the only tropical rain forest in the United States National Forest System. It was less than an hour away from my parents’ home.

Our first stop was at the El Portal Rain Forest Center where we saw an informational video on this natural wonder.  Even I learned interesting facts about El Yunque. Did you know that this tropical rainforest encompasses six watersheds that supply water to about the one fifth of the population on the main island? While this tropical rainforest is one of the smallest by national forest standards, it is extremely rich in biodiversity boasting 750 different tree species, more than 1000 different plant species, 11 different reptiles, 79 different birds, including the endangered Puerto Rican parrot, and 12 different types of coquí frogs

After touring the visitors’ center, we drove all the way to the top stopping to take plenty of pictures along the way. There is no doubt that a trip to the rainforest awakens all your senses. The cacophony of sounds coming from the coquí frogs, birds and insects, the fresh aroma of the tropical flora, and the embracing warm mist all work in unison to create a memorable experience. In fact, my parents are still raving about our trip to El Yunque.

It’s incredible that we often have local hidden treasures in our own backyard that we take for granted. Have you explored any local natural treasures lately? I know that another visit to El Yunque is on my to-do-list for my next Puerto Rico visit. This time I’ll dedicate the right amount of time to venture through the hiking trails. In the meantime, I would like to share some of the pictures I took of this natural wonder.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Welcoming Coquí

Photo of a coquí frog. Héctor Caolo Álvarez-Photographer

By Lina Younes,

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For me, there are very few things that make me feel more “at home” when I visit Puerto Rico than when I listen to the melodious voice of a small little frog called the coquí. Call it nostalgia, call it idyllic musings, but when I hear the nocturnal coquí chants I am transported to my youth in Puerto Rico. So, recently when I returned to the island for the first time in nearly three years, I was very excited when I heard a lone coquí welcoming me on the afternoon of my arrival. It is hard to explain to others who have not grown up with that nocturnal symphony, but it filled me with a sense of internal peace in spite of all the surrounding urban activities at that time. I said to myself: “I’m home.”

There are numerous species of these small amphibians on the islands of Puerto Rico which belong to the Eleutherodactylus genus which in Greek means free toes. When I was growing up, the popular notion was that the coquí frog “could only live in Puerto Rico.” However, over the years I have found out that over 700 different species occur in other areas including Florida, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, and even Hawaii.  Yet, in the islands of Hawaii they are an invasive species unlike their Caribbean cousins.

Although the coquí in Puerto Rico seems to have adapted quite well on the islands of Puerto Rico in spite of the urban sprawl, one of the species, the coquí llanero was recently identified by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as a threatened species in danger of extinction. FWS is currently taking steps to protect the species in its habitat, a wetland in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Although you might not notice it by the abundance of coquí chants at night, there has been a decline in the coquí population over the decades. Some of the coquís have also been adversely affected by a certain fungus that attacks their vulnerable skin.

The song of the coquí has inspired numerous poems, songs, and artistic expressions in Puerto Rico. I love listening to

Photo of a coquí frog. Héctor Caolo Álvarez-Photographer

the coquí chants especially after it rains. You can actually hear distinct voices and calls back and forth as if they are having a conversation. I still remember fondly falling asleep with the lull of the coquí. Hope you can enjoy it one day.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.