Sadly my time in Madagascar is starting to come to an end, I have about a week and a half left in this amazing country and I’m working hard to finish up all the last minute things that need to be done in order to wrap up this field season! The last two weeks here have been quite eventful. Prior to leaving for our expedition out to Amboasary I traveled to Fianarantsoa with Chloe to visit Anja Community Reserve and say goodbye before she headed down to Beza Mahafaly. We took a taxi brousse to Anja (they are large vans that are very cheap to travel in but you are packed in like a sardine!) and while there we were able to get only a few meters away from the ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and we saw several species of chameleons, one of which the guide picked up and let us hold! After we said our goodbyes I headed back to Centre ValBio to organize our food order and equipment before heading out to Amboasary the next day. Fortunately during our time at Amboasary the weather was beautiful and we were able to find several Varecia groups. It was probably the most relaxing trip we have had so far! We did find a large patch of tavy (slash and burn agriculture) which Georges estimated to be around five or six hectares. We are not quite sure if the tavy was in or out of the park boundaries but the GPS coordinates we collected should enable us to determine that, either way it is difficult to see such an amazing forest being cut down for rice paddies.
The day we returned to Centre ValBio was my birthday and I was sweetly welcomed back by all the others at the station with a lot of birthday wishes. That night we headed down to Ranomafana village to do karaoke which ended up being one of the best nights I’ve had here in Madagascar so far. I spent much of the weekend recovering from our night on the town and also entering data into the computer, which seems like it is a never ending process! On Monday we prepared for our final trip out to Vatorahanana to do botanical plots there and in Valohoaka, and attempt to find some groups we believe we missed the first time out sampling.
Unfortunately on the hike out there is where my lucky streak from the past few weeks ended. While hiking out I slipped and fell hard onto my tailbone on some rocks. At first I thought I was okay as I could still walk, albeit with pain, but I quickly realized I needed to return to the station or I may cause more damage than was already done. When I returned I was having a hard time walking and the area near my tailbone was becoming bruised at the site of impact. The directors at the station encouraged me to have an X-ray taken to see whether or not it was broken and potentially get prescribed a stronger pain reliever than Motrin. Taking their advice I traveled to Infanadiana with my roommate at the station (Sabrina), Dr. Steig Johnson (a professor at Calgary who has worked in Madagascar for about 20 years), and a nurse from the station. The ride was only about half an hour and they rigged the car to enable me to lay down on the ride, which was nice as sitting up would have been painful. Fortunately the doctor said he did not see anything broken (even though the X-ray was pretty blurry… Haha) and the visit only cost about 75,000 ariary which is about $25. I am sadden that I am not able to participate in my final week of camping and sampling as being in the forest is when I feel happiest here and the most at home. I have learned that field work does not always go according to plan (really most things are always different than you imagine!) but I have to adapt to the situation and work to make the most out of my time here. Although I am stuck at the station this gives me time to work on my thesis and future grants to be able to return next summer and expand upon the work I have started this summer. Even though my time here isn’t ending quite the way I anticipated I still feel extremely lucky that, in the long scheme of things, I did not really injure myself as bad as I could have and that I was able to have the chance to live and work in this amazing country in the first place!
Finally, I want to make two corrections from my last post that were pointed out to me by Chloe: Manakara is on the EAST coast of Madagascar and Amboasary is also on the EAST side of the park. Maybe my lack of directional skills played into George and I getting lost in Tandrokaomby…. Haha!