Dear Friends of the ZAZA Project,
Hello from the ZAZA Project, we hope you are happy and healthy. It has been an incredible few months for the ZAZA Project and we wanted to take some time to update you on the Scholars you are sponsoring and on the different projects that have been undertaken over the past few months in Madagasar.
To begin with, it was wonderful to be welcomed back into the community of Anevoka with so much warmth and trust. We arrived in Madagascar in the end of June, and everyone we saw expressed how happy they were to see us back at work in Maromizaha Forest. The field research went really well. I employed a team of 3 guides, 1 guardian and 1 cook as my core team to camp in the forest with us and work almost every day, and employed additional cooks, porters and guides when needed. I have attached a photo of our AllStar Team so you can see their beautiful smiles.
This year we had births in 4 Indri groups and 3 Sifaka groups, and so we were very busy finding, following, and recording the every move of the baby lemurs 🙂 The forest has recovered considerably from the devastating cyclone that hit the forest in February. Our friends told us that there were NO leaves on any of the trees after the cyclone, but by June most of the trees were covered with fresh new juicy leaves again. There were also many huge old trees that went down in the cyclone, and the staff worked for weeks to clear trails to make the jungle penetrable again. This work continues, and is a very labour intensive job.
We stayed at a new campsite this year, as the two others had been badly damaged by the cyclone. This campsite was very close to the village and so we had many more opportunities to interact with the locals. Waking to the sounds of song birds, lemur songs and roosters, was a continuous reminder of the ever-increasing pressure of the very poor and very hungry people of this country on their forests. Forests all over the country are threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture and from international mining and timber exploitation.
We know that if Maromizaha Forest is going to have a chance of surviving, the local people must be involved in projects from the ground up. Alastair often told me I was doing “more than I can” but to me it always feels like there is more I do. We ran English Lessons at our camp every Saturday. It was open to anyone who was willing to make the 30 minute hike into the forest, rain or shine. We had a core group of 30 students, mostly children, that would indeed arrive over an hour early every Saturday for English lessons, even when it was windy, cold and horrible, they made the trek to learn English. I gave them oral tests and certificates at the end if they successfully completed a certain number of tests. There is a photo of the students holding their certificates attached to this email. Look for your ZAZA Scholar! Many of them participated in the English Lessons 🙂
James Shelton, an American Peace Corps volunteer, is now stationed in Anevoka. He is the one with the wild hair in the picture with Alastair. He is wonderful for many reasons. For one, he has inherited all of my teaching supplies and is continuing the Saturday English Lessons with the students. For another, he has made one room of his Peace Corps house into the beginnings of an interpretive centre, with huge maps and photos of lemurs with captions that we have written out in English and in Malagasy.
We had several positive experiences with the ZAZA Scholars from the first group (2011-2012 cohort) and we know most of them, and their families quite well now. We had a special native tree planting ceremony at our camp where each scholar got to plant their own tree. We also planted several trees with a groups of Study Abroad students that came to Maromizaha Forest for a Lemur Behaviour and Ecology Course in September. Trees are so important for a forest!!
The next group of Scholars we don’t know as well, yet, but several of them have been part of the English Lessons and we know several members of their families. Thanks to you, there are now 22 students being sponsored by the ZAZA Project 🙂 Thank-you so much for your part in making the world a better place 🙂
The project is still in good hands. Alastair and I are back in New Zealand and I have started the task of entering the thousands of hours of data into my computer. Before we left Madagascar, I organized a team of local research technicians that had worked with me for several months and they will be continuing the follows of my baby lemurs until December, when they will hopefully be weaned. Five members of this team are close relatives of ZAZA Scholars, the 6th is a Master’s student from the University of Antananarivo called Lova. I have a ZAZA Project bank account in Madagascar now, and each month, money for salaries is delivered to the village. We will definitely be back to Maromizaha, but in the meantime, while we work to finance our next trip and the completion of my PhD, I am completely enthused and I glow, knowing that the project continues in our physical absence.
Enjoy the smiles, and thank-you again for your part in making these smiles so beautiful,