Dear Friends, Well, after another action packed, beauty-filled 2 weeks in the jungle of Maromizaha, Madagascar, I am back in the capital of Antananarivo, safe and sound and full of joy and love, and also a little bit tired 😉
Tonight I fly out in the middle of the night and make my way to Canada, where I will be presenting at the Marine Mammal Conference in Halifax next weekend (that other hat I wear) before heading back to New Zealand.
All in all, it has been a fantabulous trip. Highlights include:
- My local monitoring team is currently following 5 baby sifaka and their mothers 6 days a week. FIVE baby fuzzy fluff balls of cuteness of a Critically Endangered species of lemur, so very precious.
- I added them up and I now have records for 27 infant sifaka!!! And some of my Moms have had 4 babies since 2011 and one of them has had 5!!!
- My local monitoring team is composed of 7 people this year (Ndrenusolo, Raelison, Olga (who had a baby in January named Alex), Suzy, Herve and Vonjy. Vonjy is 6 months pregnant so after this week she is on data entry only, (although she wanted to keep working in the forest) and a new assistant who we are training, named Nasa will take some of her shifts in the forest. The team has work from late June through to Dec 23.
- The model that I use with my project is seen as a very good system and this year I was delighted to learn that other researchers have employed locals to habituate and collect data on both Varecia and Hapalemur. This was my first visit where I could get close to these species of lemur (also very cute but not as cute as sifaka)
- Other than 9 species of lemurs, other animals sighted included cameleons, 12 species of endemic birds, forest crabs, frogs, tadpoles, giraffe-neck weevil, giant snails and a baby leaf tailed gecko
- Thanks to many kind donations from all over the world, we were able to provide scholarships to 28 students. I also decided to give some money to Olga to replace school supplies for her two children who lost everything in the cyclone (the house they were in was right near a river and the house completely flooded).
- Of the students supported this year, 10 are newbies entering our western equivalent to middle school (6ieme), 3 are entering 5ieme (next level up), 4 are entering 4ieme, 3 are entering 3ieme. We have 2 students that are entering 2ieme (our equivalent to upper level highschool) and 4 that are entering 1iere.
- Herve, who was from our original cohort of students in 2011, had failed 3 years in a row. But he is such a lovely kind person so last year I gave him a part-time job with our team in the forest helping clearing trail and learning about the different animal groups and territories. I was very surprised to hear that he used his wages to pay for his school last year…passed….so is now going into 2ieme. He is 21 years old and he is super delighted and proud to be going into our equivalent of grade 10. Love. He is still going to work for me on Saturdays, but he got his scholarship this year 🙂
- Finally, perhaps my absolute biggest glow from this trip was learning that two girls from our original cohort, Tina and Hollandine, who have received top marks and ZAZA scholarships every year since 2011, are this month starting their final year of pre-University courses. If this happens, these two girls will be the first ever from the village or surrounding villages to finish their schooling and maybe even go to UNIVERSITY!!!!
Thank-you so SO very much to everyone who has supported this trip and who has been a part of this project in one way or another. Without you, this just wouldn’t happen, and so I am immensely grateful. Thank-you especially to my wonderful husband Alastair who has been involved since the start and who this year is guaranteeing the wages for the entire local monitoring team.