If Week One was about adjustment, and Week Two was about getting into the work and hardcore poop collection, Week Three was about the Cool Things and Changes.
This post is about some of the Cool things. The first happened after one particularly bad day, where I ended up alone in the forest until almost 4 pm waiting for one lemur to poop in the 100 degree heat (many curse words that day, lots of name-calling to the lemur, who continued to snooze). I have to admit I called it quits early the next day. We already had samples, we had been tramping around
for over an hour looking for a 2nd group, and I really wanted a HOT lunch. It’s amazing how important the difference between hot and lukewarm becomes when you’ve had two not great days and been eating the same thing for 2.5 weeks. So I made the decision to head back early…only to find the capture team in the middle of camp attempting to dart a male lemur! Of course, rather than head to lunch, Tahiri and I helped the capture team to keep track of the animal, and call Anafa when he was in a good spot to be darted. After over an hour, we finally managed to get him cornered in the big kily tree in the middle of camp and darted him. And I managed to capture the whole thing in still shots! Pretty amazing right?
Lunch, of course, was cold by the time we got to it.
Somehow, Week Three was also the week that I ended up in the middle of about 4 pitched lemur routs. It’s very disconcerting to be peacefully hanging out with one group, and suddenly there is another group around you, and your previous group has completely vanished. It’s much harder to catch up with them than you might imagine. One afternoon, I was hanging out with Blue group, just enjoying the late afternoon heat, when I heard crashing off to the side. A female from Pink exploded out of the bushes and, suddenly, all of Blue group is in full retreat. I couldn’t believe one female could chase off 12 members of another group by
herself, while the rest of her 6 individual group just sat there, but she totally did it. They didn’t run far, so I was able to keep up, but so was 185 from Pink, and man, she was not happy they were there. What followed was a series of chases and halts over the course of like 30 minutes, in so many different directions that I was completely turned around. I managed to get pretty badly snagged in some thorny acacias, and while extricating myself, saw a brown furry foot sticking out of a tree stump. For a second, I was sure it was rat, but the longer I looked, the less sure I was. Then it disappeared and a head popped out the other side of the stump. It was a mouse lemur!! I found a wild mouse lemur, which is nocturnal, while there was still daylight out! I literally stood there, unmoving, with my camera trained on that stump, for over 45 minutes. Luckily, the group I was with settled down around me, so I didn’t miss anything. Truth – this was a once in a lifetime chance. Had the ring-tails left, I totally would have let them go and stayed with the mouse lemur. About 20 minutes in, I got another surprise – there were two!! They were literally the cutest things I had ever seen. I did finally manage to get some good photos of them, but I had to scare them out of their wits to do it. But they were super cute!
I also saw a Malagasy radiated tortoise that week, which are super endangered. Tahiri and I were chasing Pink group again, and I literally tripped over him. He was the size of a basketball and super cool.
Part II contains more of the unexpected, so stay tuned!