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  • Noromalala Eliette

Notes from the field: October


I am Noro, Andrea’s Malagasy PhD student, working on the Vareciaproject in Mangevo at Ranomafana National Park.

My job in the project is collecting behavioral continuous data, recording all the activities the lemurs do and focusing especially on the interactions between individuals.

Last month, the black-and-white ruffed lemurs behaved incredibly differently from the previous

expedition, displaying some amazing behaviors. This year, September was the flowering season of Natojabo trees (Mammea bongo), their favorite food among all the trees available during that period. They were mostly feeding on Natojabo flower and didn’t stop eating them all day, every day. They were traveling a lot as well looking for that delicious flower. We know they’re good too: the field assistants who collect feeding plants tasted Natojabo and realized that this plant is sugary and full of water. I think the lemurs made the best choice!

Bamboo forest in Mangevo, Blue territory.

We became absorbed watching these behaviors, especially during the first week of the last expedition, when at least three subgroups gathered in the same place and fed together. The interactions between individuals were interesting at that time because some were very protective of their feeding tree and then cuffed, bit, or even chased other individuals coming to feed in their territory. Others were pushed all the way from their territory and explored new areas to look for Natojabo. Therefore, we needed to go farther from camp than we are used to, to follow them, and explored new areas with our lemurs; the lemurs showed us more of the beauty of Mangevo forest. I was grateful that they brought us to amazing places such as beautiful waterfalls, lookout points that let us see amazing views of Mangevo forest, and dense bamboo liana forest that tripped us up with every step; but pain is gain! Some of them went very, very far, even so far that the radio telemetry couldn’t detect their frequency, so we were not able to follow those individuals this time. Last expedition was also my first time to see Varecia playing, my favorite activity of what I have seen. They bite each other, forming a Varecia ball, sometimes rolling and even coming close to falling from the tree. They are so cute!

Get ready to enjoy what the Black and White Ruffed lemurs will tell you next month. I can tell you already that they will offer you amazing surprises!

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