News - December 14, 2017

Every animal in the same position

Echica van Kelle

Who? Matthijs Hollanders, Master’s student of Biology
What? Internship at Tropical Herping
Where? Quito, Ecuador

Matthijs Hollanders with a Corallus blombergi.

‘During my internship I went on a lot of expeditions into the rainforest, looking for reptiles and amphibians. We went out at night, for instance, and took the animals we found back to our temporary lodgings. We came across all sorts: frogs, snakes, lizards, crocodiles, tortoises.
Back at the field stations where we were staying we took photos of the animals, all in the same position and against a white background. With frogs, for instance, you needed to be able to count the toes. The next day, when we were done with taking photos, we put the animals back where we had found them.

The Chironius Monticola.
The Chironius Monticola.


I did my internship at Tropical Herping: an organization that does research on reptiles and amphibians. Herping is looking for these animals. The verb is derived from herpetology: the study of reptiles and amphibians. Photography has always played an important role in this organization. At the moment they are working on a book called Reptiles of Ecuador, which includes about 450 species.
The way the rainforest is disappearing in Ecuador is a dramatic sight. In some places a truck loaded with timber goes past every quarter of an hour. So some of Tropical Herping’s profits are going to an initiative that buys up land to prevent felling.

The Oophaga Sylvatica.
The Oophaga Sylvatica.

Frogs’ fingers

When I wasn’t on an expedition, I worked at the laboratory at the Universidad San Francisco in Quito, where I helped put together the description of a new species of frog. This entailed taking DNA samples from the specimens we had collected. We also took all sorts of measurements for the morphological description – measuring the length of the fingers and the distance between the eyes, for instance.
I’ve been doing photography for years. I got in touch with Tropical Herping because they take the best photos of reptiles and amphibians in the world. When I heard that I could do my internship here, I booked my flight straightaway.
One day after arrival I got the unexpected chance to go on a 10-day expedition. I really lived my dream for over five months during my internship. I’m always looking for and photographing reptiles and amphibians as a hobby, and all of a sudden in Ecuador it was my work.’

You can see more of Matthijs Hollander’s animal photos on his Instagram account.