Beginning of June 2017
The study site “Ambanjabe” in the western part of Ankarafantsika National Park displays a network of forest fragments separated by grassland and lavakas (erosion zones). It is situated on a plateau and therefore especially in the dry season, it is very dry and much less green as the vegetation in the surrounding valleys. Sadly, it is highly disturbed by people illegally harvesting wood and maciba roots, poaching and herding livestock. Out of the bigger lemur species occurring in this area, like the diurnal Propithecus coquereli, the cathemeral Eulemur fulvus and the nocturnal species Lepilemur edwardsi and Avahi occidentalis, only the latter could be observed so far.
The two sympatric mouse lemur species Microcebus ravelobensis and Microcebus murinus in contrast are fairly abundant in the remaining forest patches. The trapping, however, is sometimes rather difficult, but by now, the trapping numbers have increased.
Introduced Rattus spp. are caught very regularly. Due to the high susceptibility of rodents for stress, we anaesthetize them prior to handling.
Mid June – End of July 2017
Our second study area is a fragmented forest region near the village Mariarano. It is situated 60 kilometers northeast to the city of Mahajanga, next to the coast of the Mozambique Channel. This year, the “Team Radespiel” only spent six weeks at this site in collaboration with the organization Operation Wallacea. OpWall is working in this area since several years, collecting long term data in the domains botany, herpetology, ornithology and primatology with the help of international researchers and students. For us, this is a wonderful opportunity to encounter many inspiring professionals and students from all over the world. Furthermore, using the forthcoming infrastructure of the OpWall camps is very convenient.
Even the large lemur species are very abundant in the Mariarano forest. We are able to see Coquerel´s Sifaka, the Brown Lemur and even the critically endangered Mongoose Lemur almost every day. One group of Sifakas is living right next to the camp. During our nocturnal surveys, Western Woolly Lemurs and Milne Edwards’ Sportive Lemurs are observed frequently. The capture of mouse lemurs works fairly well. On one day with 46 mouse lemurs caught, we spent the whole day on the examination, not even being able to set up the traps for the next day.
After six weeks in Mariarano and one day in Mahajanga, the Team Radespiel is back in Ambanjabe to set up the old camp again. Local workers built a very nice shade-providing roof, urgently needed since tree foliage becomes less and less. We started the new trapping cycle very soon and are now fairly content with the amount of animals we are able to sample.
Finally, we found two or three groups of the diurnal Coquerel’s Sifaka, some brown lemurs and after all one individual of the nocturnal Milne Edwards’ sportive lemur.
We now see enormous grass- and bushfires every day. Most of them are far away from camp, but still in the National Park area.
Although the day temperatures range at about 35°C, it is still rather cool at night due to the relatively high altitude.
Photos credits: © Simon Rohner, Frederik Kiene