Kenya & Madagascar Expedition 2011

We are now in Antananarivo, Madagascar.  Here, the main languages are French and Malagasy, but there are other dialects originated from the Malagasy language.    Today we got spent time with Dr.Kusimba’s colleague and collaborator Dr.  Voahangy Soarimalala, who works at Vahatra.  Here there are four researchers, and fourteen students.  She’s a researcher in Madagascar, at the University of Antananarivo.  All of the students attend this school, but there are more.  We actually got to meet four of the students and a previous student who is now a teacher.  They were, Landryh (preparing masters, studies small mammals, and researches the impact the climate change has on the small mammals), Toky (just finished getting his masters and is preparing his masters), Eddy (preparing is Ph.  D, studies reptiles, and researches on finding the effect climate change has on animals in Madagascar), Malala (preparing her masters and studies ecology based on habitat selection), and finally Patricia (is a teacher and has her Ph.  D on her studies and research of small birds).   There are six different branches of this University spread amongst six different provinces.  At Vahatra, they research small mammals, birds, reptiles, and more.  When researching for a project, it usually takes up to three to four years.  For the time there, we got to learn a little bit of what we might see when traveling to the highlands for the next two weeks.

At the university, they have the largest and best collection of specimen of animals.  The University of Antananarivo partners with the Field Museum of Chicago.  They help the museum with obtaining their animal collection.  This collection was established in 1992 and still growing till this day.  Students who attend the school always have open access to come and do research on the animals there.  The collection contains a wide variety of animals such as birds and birds native to Madagascar, bats, snakes, gecko’s, small owls, butterflies, coral, other small insects, moles, hedge hog’s, lemurs, turtles & tortoise’s, and skeletons of many of these animals.  Also, I got to look up some of the animals while in Dr.  Soarimalala’s office.  I read about the Radiated Tortoise.  This tortoise is the most widely distributed of all living tortoise species in Madagascar.  This species can be found in the extreme south and south-west region of Madagascar.  The species occurs as far as 50km in land.  The carapace (the upper part of shell of a turtle above the bridges) and the plastron (the ventral shell of a turtle below the bridges) present a characteristic radiant pattern, constituting alternate bands of yellow and dark brown.  Juvenile radiated tortoises have striking coloration that progressively fades in older individuals.  Adult male radiated tortoises are seven percent larger than the adult female.   I also read about lemurs.  There are five different categories of lemurs.  These consist of Daubentoniidae, Indriidae, Lemuridae, Lepilemuridae, and Cheirogaleidae.  The lemurs of Madagascar consist of the mouse lemur, dwarf lemur, hairy-eared dwarf lemur, fork-marked lemur, sportive lemur, bamboo/gentle lemur, greater bamboo lemur, ring-tailed lemur, true lemurs, ruffled lemurs, woolly lemur, indri babakoto lemur, sifakas/simponas lemur, and lastly the aye-aye lemur.

Overall Madagascar is home to a large quantity of exotic animals, but in order to really enjoy them, you have to understand them first.