This week one of my guides, Théoluc, officially started in his new role as supervisor for the Simus Team, which meant everyday after fieldwork he needed to come to KAFS to help me organise everything for the next day, pack backpacks, arrange schedules and learn more computer skills. It was really nice having some help after two months doing all the work by myself!
Two particularly exciting things happened in week 9. The first was that I got to go out with Nicola Guthrie, a PhD student from Scotland who is doing all her fieldwork here in Madagascar. Her project focuses on mouse lemurs, and whether or not they are making use of MBP’s reforestation sites.
As mouse lemurs are nocturnal, this meant heading off at 9pm. She and her guides had already set up a series of metal traps along transects in Sangasanga, smeared with banana bits to lure them in. Unfortunately for us, not a single mouse lemur was caught that night! It was still a fantastic time though, as we were able to see one in a tree near the trail leading to the field site, as well as several other nocturnal species including woolly and dwarf lemurs. Being in the jungle at night was incredible and gave me an even greater appreciation of the amazing diversity of animals that call this place home.
The second exciting thing was that we went to Ranomafana National Park for our reporting weekend. Before coming to Madagascar, I read Patricia Chapple Wright’s autobiography, the founder of the park, so I was all the more keen to see it for myself. Wright established the park in 1991 after finding Greater Bamboo Lemurs, which were previously thought extinct, as well as discovering a brand new species – Golden Bamboo Lemurs in the area. Since then, Ranomafana has been a fantastic example of conservation in action.
We stayed at the Soa Lodge where we got a little bungalow to ourselves and a fantastic view of the area. Since it took the best part of the morning to travel there, we decided to do the medium hike with our guide for the day, Theophil.
The hike was incredible. Before even entering the park we’d seen comet moths, and after a few minutes a short-nosed chameleon and black giraffe weevil.
Once inside, we saw 7 species of lemur!! Golden Bamboo, Milne-Edwards’ Sifaka, Red-bellied, Red-fronted, Brown, Greater Bamboo, and Woolly, which are supposed to be nocturnal! The Milne-Edwards’ Sifaka had to be the most exciting, we got to see a female and her baby down low in a tree, and the male sitting on the floor to get out of the heat. About three times the size of simus, they were very impressive to watch, and our guide practically had to drag us away.
We enjoyed the day so much that we decided to take Theophil up on his offer of taking us out for a night tour a few hours later. My photos definitely do not do this experience justice. We got to see a malagasy tree frog, that our guide found by making frog noises at a bit of water until it appeared. We saw mouse lemurs that had been enticed by fruit rubbed on a tree, and the faint outline of a fat-tailed dwarf lemur high in a tree. The highlight though was definitely the chameleons. We saw a number of different species – from tiny green ones to much larger ones that were blue, green and red. When you shine your torch on them the start turning black!
This touristy weekend has 100% confirmed for me that I will be returning to Madagascar in the future to hit up all the national parks, particularly in the North!