June 16, 2012
I have officially seen my first lemur J. It was technically in captivity, but for my region I am going to call it good. There is a private reserve, Lemur’s Park, located about 20 km west of Antananarivo, so about 60 km east of me. They have about 40 lemurs, 9 different species, 2 nocturnal and 7 diurnal. Because I desperately wanted to see a lemur before I traveled back home (I mean come on, I can’t live here for 6 months and not see one!) and a French volunteer, Camille, was about to leave the country we decided to spend a Saturday at the park. We went via taxi-brousse from Miarinarivo, and met up with Eric in Arivonimamo on the way. He is about 40 km from me, so about 20 km from the park. The park fee is 15,000 Ariary (about 7 dollars, but it is quite a bit for my living allowance, as I make about 9,000 a day), and takes about an hour. They have tour guides that speak all kinds of languages, so we got one who spoke English and French (and Malagasy, of course) and learned all kinds of fun stuff about lemurs. For example, ring-tailed lemurs (King Julian, for those of you who are fans of the Dreamworks movies) have exactly 28 rings on their tails, 14 black and 14 white. Also, lemurs can’t swim, so the reserve is bordered on one side by a river to contain them without the need for fences. The tour only takes about an hour, but in that time we saw common brown, crowned sifakas, black and white ruffed, Coquerel’s sifakas, red-fronted brown, brown bamboo, mouse, fat-tail lemurs, and ring-tail lemurs. The mouse and fat-tail are the only ones in cages, because they are nocturnal. So, we saw all of the species they have in the park. Unfortunately they do not have any indri, as they are highly endangered. The nice thing about the Malagasy culture is it is fady (taboo) to kill them, which means they are not hunted. The reason many species are endangered is due to deforestation and decimation of their habitats. This is bad, of course, but at least you will not find gidro (lemur) on the menu of any restaurant.
Be on the look out for the pictures I will post soon. Also I took video, but that will have to wait until August. Also, if you are interested in learning more about lemurs, BBC put out a great DVD hosted by David Attenborough about Madagascar. If you live near my grandparents I gave them a copy for Christmas J. I kept busting out information I learned from that and the guide was pretty impressed. Did learn quite a bit I didn’t know before though!