Monday, October 5, 2009

Third Week in Madagascar

I took my final exam for the Primate Behavior and Ecology course, and it was easy. So now I know everything about primates and especially lemurs. That is the end of our formal classes, for our next course, comparative ecosystems, we will go cross country to the West Coast to see the coral reefs. We will stop in the spiny desert where the ring-tailed lemurs live. First we are hiking up to a different part of Ranomafana Park where there is primary forest, Vato, which has never been logged. We have only been to secondary forests so far, so it was be interesting to see how different it is. There will also be different species of lemur there including the White-Ruffed Lemurs (Varecia variegata), which we will be able to hear them more than see because they make very loud calls to communicate which each other throughout the day.

Last week we went into the forest a lot to look for lemurs. One day my group went to observe the most endangered primate in the world, the Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus), the type that Pat Wright found when she first came here and why this park is here. There is a group of 4, female, male, juvenile and infant and they are habituated, so they don’t really care when humans are around and we got to go so close to them. They are soo cute and they eat bamboo all day long and pretty much lounge in the same area, so they are easy to watch. We did focal sampling, continuous scan sampling and instantaneous scan sampling, so pretty much we were there for about two hours writing down all their behaviors.

The next day my group went to observe the Milne-Edwards’ Sifakas (Propithecus edwardsi). There are a monogamous pair who are always together. These guys couldn’t be more different than the bamboo lemurs, they don’t stay in one place for longer than 1 minute. So we had to write down their activities and behaviors they were doing while running after them in the jungle. And of course they do not follow the trails, I wish I had a video of us trying to follow them. Getting stuck on branches and sliding up and down muddy mountainsides. But the Sifakas were really cool, they were pretty big and they leap from tree to tree so easily and then they get together and groom each other. They are all black with white backs. So that was a lot of fun. There has also been a chameleon hanging out in the trees near our back porch. And it has blue legs and a brown back most of the time, so it isn’t too camouflaged but when it turns brown it is so hard to see it. In the campsite one morning I was a cute little Ring-Tailed Mongoose running towards me, it didn’t seem to care that I was there at all. It looked like on long, red ferret with a striped tail.

One of the Malagasy students wrote a list of American foods that we were talking about and he gave it to the kitchen, so they tried making some American dishes, which was very cute. One night we had pizza, but it was nothing like pizza we know, the dough was really thin and flaky, similar to a filo dough. And then for the veggie one they put onions and mushrooms and peppers and cheese on it. It was really good though! And the next night they made zebu-hamburgers. So for the vegetarians it was this huge bun that they baked and lettuce and carrots and tomato and cheese, haha. But I put ketchup on it and it was good. They make french fries once in a while here too, which are good. And for desert they make flan like once a week, which is sorta normal for them, but one night we had peanut butter and jelly flavored flan, it was funny. Last night they made us mango ice cream, which was good, but it tasted a little weird because I guess it was made from zebu milk.

Dr. Patricia Wright, the founder of Ranomafana National Park, arrived here this week. This is pretty much her home since she lives here half of the year. She knows everything about this place and it’s great talking with her. She tells long stories about her life at dinner, I got to listen to her story of how she became a primatologist. The night she got here she brought a Malagasy band (the singer is actually our chef!) and she also brought along a group of Spanish tourists that she met on the plane who also played music for us. So it became a very fun dance party. Plus she’ll be giving us all the advice we need for our independent projects, since she knows what has already been done, what needs to be researched and what is possible to do. I’m considering doing something with sustainable agriculture, reforestation…or something to do with plants, but I haven’t decided yet.

That’s all for now! Happy October! :)
p.s. thanks for all the comments!