Blog from MBP Volunteer, Blake
Do I have some awesome news for you to hear or what?! I am officially at KAFS and this is officially the coolest thing I have ever done. Period. I just need to start by saying I have TONS of photos to share with all y’all back in the States and there is going to be a ton more for those unlucky few who I chose to go through all of them with me. Thankfully, I have made it a point to be super critical of my photo taking abilities this time around and my goal is basically to go back with less than 10,000 bajillion photos from all this.
My drive from Tana to Kianjavato was definitely a long drive, but I got a taste for the general culture of Madagascar. The predominant lifestyle is agrarian in nature with much of the country devoted to growing rice. Just to keep things relatively organized, I think I am just going to randomly interject photos in this post and let you do the sleuth work of discovering what it was for.
The drive ended up taking about 12 hours to get us from Tana all the way to Kianjavato. We had a ton of winding roads we had to take to get there and most of it was on 2 lane roads where you truly grow to appreciate the skill of your driver. Richard was our driver and we ended up picking up his son along the way because he was taking his son, Patrick, back to Ranomafana where they lived. Patrick sat in the back with us and I basically just grilled him for about 2 hours on Malagasy and he was pretty excited to teach me so it worked out pretty nicely. I have a journal that I keep everything in and it is already just jam packed with phrases in Malagasy. The views along the entire journey were just gorgeous to me and I took tons of pictures on the way down.
Once we arrived in Ranomafana, we dropped off Richard and Patrick and then I sat up front with Sergey who was the driver who picked Sierra and me from the airport and we talked about politics of Madagascar. I learned that some of the forest burning in certain parts is called dorotavy and is actually done to protest against the government. This killed me a little bit because this is basically what I am here to try and preserve.
Finally, after all that driving we arrived at KAFS in the evening where we had dinner and went to bed. The next day, we walked to the town of Kianjavato which is about a 40 minute walk from our research site and got to go to the local market which happens every Sunday. Along the way, a guy called crazy Harry picked me out of the group and I was excited because I got to practice my Malagasy with him. He took me all around town and we got juice together and basically called it a day after that. I came back to KAFS and got a little bored to I decided to go on a run with Sierra. Let’s just say I am so glad that social pressure does not bother me. We did about a 3 mile run and just about every person we went by laughed and imitated us running so I was just eating it up. I will definitely be running a lot around these parts. That pretty much wraps up that whole transitioning into KAFS and the local area. Now onto the reason I’m here. Lemurs.
So the first thing I learned is that my job is going to be ridiculous. It just so happens that I have arrived right in the middle of the birthing season so there babies EVERYWHERE. I have taken a bunch of photos of them and included a couple of my favorites here for you all to appreciate. Let me just tell you about my typical day out here.
I wake up about 5:30am which I first thought to be extremely intimidating, but now it is a walk in the park because the whole region around KAFS starts to shut down around 6pm. Once the sun goes down there isn’t much to do around here besides talk and relax. Once I get up, I go down to the main kitchen and the cook has already prepared a delicious meal for everyone and there is coffee which is a definite treasure for myself out here. The Simus team, as we are known, gets the backpacks ready for the guides with a lunch the cook has made for the guides. After everyone is ready, we get in a van which drives everyone to the different research sites around Kianjavato to start the day. Simus goes to Songasonga which is inside of a giant coffee plantation that has reserved portions of the land for wildlife. The first day, I went out with Theoluc and Rasolo who are just fantastic guys. The lemurs are tracked by radio collar and once we get within sight of them the guides work their magic. The guides have been working with the lemurs for 3-4 years and are quite competent on how to do most of the research on their own. We just serve as an extra pair of hands to record the data in the notebooks. As a group, we watch about 3 lemurs a day and track each of them for about 2 hours a day in some populations which MBP acclimated to humans observing them. Once that is done, we all head back to the entrance to the coffee plantation and get picked up to go back to KAFS. At KAFS, either me or Sierra takes the notebooks and inputs the data for that day. Overall, there is probably so much more I could drone on about here, but I will save your attention span and just say I love the days in the field so far. I think this last part is just easier to say in pictures more than anything so I have included a couple favorites here at the end for your enjoyment.
Hope to talk with you all soon! Veloma!