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Tsy hita ny Varijatsy

Photo: View of the village of Miaranony and the forest of the national park in the background.

Tsy hita ny varijatsy (Malagasy for "we did not find the Varecia") was unfortunately the daily mantra of my most recent expedition. Recently my team and I visited the site of Miaranony which is located in the northern parcel of Ranomafana National Park. Previous long term researchers at this site informed me that in the past they have occasionally (although rarely) seen ruffed lemurs in the area, so my team and I made the trip with the hope that we might find some ruffed lemurs.

Our trip to Miaranony started with an extremely bumpy two hour drive out the village of Vohitrarivo, which is located approximately 10 km east of the national park. From Vohitrarivo we hiked out to the village of Miaranony (which, similar to the hike from Sahavoemba, was excruciatingly hot!) and met with the ampanjaka ("king" in Malagasy) to discuss my research objectives and request their approval to work in the forest. From there we headed up into the forest with our local guides (Rakoto and Sambatra) and porters, and after over an hour or so of walking up a very steep slope we arrived in the camp.

Photo: The team in our camp in Miaranony; from left to right: Pierre, Rakoto, Arline, Fily, Sambatra, and Jean Guy.

The following day began the first of many days spent searching the forest from dawn til dusk for any sign of ruffed lemurs. We began each day with our usual bowl of rice topped with either eggs or strips of beef, plus some black coffee for me. From there we packed our bags with lunch, sample tubes, data books, GPS, compass, and plenty of water before heading out for our long, and often difficult, hike. Although there were some trails in the forests of Miaranony and transect paths, most were very overgrown and we often were bush-waking and scrambling through the forest in order to get to sections that were far from camp. Despite our bright outlook at the beginning of each day and all our hard work searching we unfortunately ended each day with the same phrase: tsy hita ny varijatsy.

Photo: Rakoto searching hard for ruffed lemurs.

Although there have been occasional sightings in the past by older researchers/ local villagers we concluded that there were no ruffed lemurs in the forest at the time of our trip. This was definitely a disappointing conclusion to draw but as any good researcher knows things don't always go according to plan and we are bound to experience bumps along the road. Even though we were not able to find any ruffed lemurs while in Miaranony, our team did have the opportunity to collect many plant samples for a complimentary project so we did not walk out of the forest completely empty handed. Additionally, we saw several other lemur species (varika mena (red-bellied lemur), varika mavo (brown lemur), and sifaka) and a tenrec (which was my first time ever seeing one!), and had several ring-tailed mongoose hanging out in camp with us.

Photo: Jean Guy measuring the DBH of a tree that we collected samples from.

Photo: One of many sifaka found in the forests of Miaranony.

Photo: The first tenrec I've seen in Madagascar!

Photo: One of the ring-tailed mongoose that loved to hang out around our campsite.

After our ten days in the forest we headed out for our long journey back to CVB which with it's ample internet, hot showers, and comfy beds is always a welcome sight after a stint in the forest . Since being back I have spent a lot of time resting and binge watching Gilmore Girls (hey, there are some aspects of life here that are just like the USA!), as well as planning my schedule for our upcoming expeditions following the holiday break. Until January 9th we are off work here and in the mean time I have some big holiday plans with the other researchers/ expats here in the country, as well as a trip to the city of Antsirabe to get some good cheese and tour the THB factory.

Disclaimer: The views and information presented in this post are my own and do not reflect those of the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State.

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