Winter is Coming
Before heading back into the field this month, I got to enjoy a little weekend holiday! A great opportunity to go and see some other parts of Madagascar. Me and Jesse (one of the many lovely Americans working at CVB), took a little road trip to Anja and Isalo. Anja is a community run reserve about 1-2 hours south of Fianarantsoa (our nearest city) which is absolutely teeming with ring-tailed lemurs. It was amazing! I think in the half day spent there I got 10 times more good photos of them than I have in four months following the Varecia at Mangevo. They come right up to you in the trees and on the ground! We also visited Isalo National Park, which is another 4-5 hours southwest of Anja – this place is like visiting Mars – it’s an oasis in the highland plateau, in which huge rocky canyons rise up from the expansive flat plains all around. We spent the day hiking round the park, passing through forest down in the valleys, up onto the canyon tops, and back down into the rocky pools below. A very different place to the rainforest, and nice to spend some time in dry air! We also got to enjoy some luxury by staying at Rock Lodge in Isalo, which I think is the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in.
After that warm and sunny trip, it was back to Mangevo. We’re starting to feel the bite of the Austral winter now. It was pretty chilly this month; but on the bright side there was a lot less rain than we have had on any previous expedition. I think I can take the cold in return for not getting soaked every day. It does make me laugh when it’s so cold and wet, because I don’t think any of my friends from home imagine the weather to be like this – everyone thinks of ‘Madagascar’ and thinks red earth, baobabs and scorching sun. Much more like where I went on my weekend trip! We had another successful expedition, and fecal sampling went much better than last month due to the better weather. The Varecia foraged on a couple of plants species I haven’t seen before too, and to my surprise ate mostly leaves this month – unexpected for such a highly frugivorous species! There really isn’t much fruit around anymore though. Something new I discovered this month is taking a bucket of ranomafana (hot water) down to the river with me, which makes the bathing experience a little less icy, and actually quite pleasant! Quite game changing. I am also pleased to report that there have been no eventful latrine incidents this month – though I did get pooped on by lemurs an unusually high number of times… The Varecia have also changed their habits now that winter has started, and they often spend many hours at a time huddled in small groups high up in the trees, trying to stay warm. Another (incredibly cute) thing they do is sunbathe! Here is Radio Silver looking very relaxed –
The highlight of this expedition though has to be a sighting of a golden bamboo lemur whilst out collecting plant samples! He was just perched on a half-fallen tree, munching on some bamboo, with the morning sun shining down though a gap in the trees. He looked so golden, it was quite magical! What a terrible shame I didn’t have my camera with me… I won’t be leaving that in my tent again.