A forest full of dragons

The eye staring back at me was large and round and cold with a black pupil set into a flame-red iris that burned even in the warm tropical sunlight. It looked more like a precious stone than anything organic. It was set in a dull gray scaly skin that was sandpaper-rough to the touch. Read more…

Leeches and cameras

After three days we had fallen into a regular pattern. To cover more ground we split the group up into two teams. I led one team. Khamhou, a Lao national working for WWF, led the second team. From our campsite we set out in daylong hikes that meandered towards the Vietnam border and then led back again to our campsite. Read more…

Morning singing

I opened my eyes and peeked out of my hammock. A faint orange glow lit the camp scene. At first I thought it was the first rays of sunlight spilling over the mountain ridge but then I realized that the glow came from the campfire. Two figures, hazy in the rising smoke, were hunched over the flames, stirring a large metal pot. Read more…

Eyes in the forest

Imagine that you are a wildlife biologist and you’ve been given a dozen pairs of eyes that you can place anywhere in the forest to watch wildlife for you. You can find a good area, put them down, then walk away. These eyes are unblinking and all-seeing. They’re open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Read more…

Back into the jungle

I’d almost forgotten what the jungle felt like. It was dark and damp. Even at midday, the forest floor, locked underneath the dense closed-canopy overhead, was illuminated by a hazy half-light. The humidity was sauna-level high. The lens on my camera was perpetually fogged: no matter how many times I wiped it with the inside of my shirt, it clouded up again, shrouded in a white mist. Read more…

Assembling the team

At Ban Kalo we assembled our complete team. The group that had walked in included myself, Kai, and Son—a group that I referred to as the “Rough Hikers,” for no other reason than because I was, at the time, reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt. Read more…

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