The last month here in Madagascar has been INCREDIBLY successful! On July 5th Chloe Chen-Kraus (a PhD candidate from Yale) arrived at the station just in time for the final preparations before our big trip
out for the summer. On the 7th we left with my team to head to the forest near Tandrokaomby, which is a village near the corridor located southwest of Ranomafana National Park. On my first expedition out to Mangevo we did some recon in that area to ask the locals if they have heard any Varecia in the forest, and since they confirmed there were Varecia there and no one has sampled that area in the past I decided that was good place to focus the majority of our expedition. The hike out to Tandrokaomby took us two full days, so we camped out near Mangevo village (about the halfway point) on the first night. The first night out in Tandrokaomby both Chloe and I got a stomach bug that lasted the first few days out in the forest (definitely not very fun to deal when there is no bathroom around…), but thankfully my guides and student were able to press on without us and get some sampling done. The campsite we established there was right in the center of several Varecia groups which was amazing and enabled us to get samples from somewhere between 20 to 25 individuals (I am excited to find out for sure when I get back to the States!). The two weeks in Tandrokaomby were filled with so much activity and so many laughs! The theme song of the trip became the opening song from the show Zoboomafoo (that was definitely Chloe’s contribution!), my guides and student took to doing some wood carvings to entertain themselves after a hard day’s work, and we worked on trying to teach Justin how to pronounce “oil,” which he pronounces like “whale.” There were also a few serious moments, like finding numerous lemur/ fossa traps, some of which the locals were still actively using. Additionally, one of the last days in Tandrokaomby, George and I got lost with one of the locals (Razafimandimby) and didn’t return to camp until well after dark (the others were very worried as it seemed impossible to them that we could get lost with the local and a GPS!). After our time in Tandrokaomby we switched to spend a week in the bush camp near Mangevo, which everyone refers to as “Andrea’s Forest.” The forest there is primary and has not been subject to logging (unlike so many other areas both in and out of the park) so it was amazing to be able to stay in. Every morning we woke up to the Varecia calling and there were a few individuals that fed/slept in a large tree in the middle of camp. We were also HUGELY successful while sampling there, probably finding somewhere between 20 to 25 new individuals also. We only found two collared individuals (from Andrea’s past work at the site) which was very surprising to me, although I guess a lot can change in 7 years! While in Mangevo I also hiked out to the fragments near Mangevo village that previously had Varecia to map them and do some botanical assessments. There were no Varecia present in the fragments this time of year, but one of the locals that lives nearby told us they may travel to them from the continuous forest during the summer months. I guess that is something to find out in the future! We returned to the station late in the afternoon on the 28th, and then on the 30th Chloe and I headed to Manakara on the west coast to take a break on the beach for a few days and escape the rain. I am now gearing up for my next trip to Amboasary (on the western edge of the park) which we will leave for on the 7th. I am hoping we continue to have good luck sampling during my remaining time here!