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  • Amanda Mancini

My first Varecia sighting!

My first week here at the station has been a whirlwind! I sat down on Monday with my guide (SOLO Justin) and a few other guides to try and plan out some of the sites I will checking out and trying to sample around Ranomafana National Park. We decided to start with a village that is near the station (Masomanga) at which we could make day trips, so we headed over there Tuesday to look around for some Varecia. When we arrived in Masomanga we met with a local in the village (Vita) who had seen some Varecia in a fragment the day before and we worked with him throughout the week to locate the group and collect some samples. I was very fortunate to meet Vita as he knew exactly where to find the Varecia and helped to make our excursion much easier! Heading into the fragment from Masomanga was challenging (an hour hike uphill!), but I figured it will be good practice for when I start to head further south to camp and the hikes become even more strenuous. On Tuesday we found the group fairly quickly (within about an hour or so of being in the forest) and I took a few samples, although I was so fascinated at seeing the Varecia in the wild I was a little distracted and we quickly lost the group. We went back out Wednesday to the fragment again but weren’t as lucky as the day before in finding the group, which was likely due to the fact that is was pouring rain and I doubt any lemur wants to be out and about in that! Thursday turned out to be a beautiful and sunny day, and within about thirty minutes of being in the forest we found the group. There were four individuals and we stayed with them all day and collected samples. It is VERY hard to try and keep track on them when they do not have collars on but we did our best to try and sample from each one. On Friday we headed back out to the fragment to try and see if we could find any more groups. We quickly located the same group as the day before, but were unable to locate any others. This may mean there is only one small group utilizing that fragment, but I will try to return and see if any others come in from the nearby national park. I decided to take the weekend off and just do some computer work, as my feet are definitely not acclimated to hiking for eight plus hours a day and needed some time to recuperate. This morning I headed to Ranomafana as Sunday is market day and I was able to walk around and see the liveliness of everyone shopping and socializing in town. I plan to head south on Tuesday to camp near Mangevo and try and locate some Varecia in some fragments near there. I look forward to meeting the locals down there and hopefully they will be able to help direct me as to where I should start my search!

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