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Lintworm goes to Madagascar

Discussion in 'Madagascar' started by lintworm, 12 Nov 2013.

  1. dean

    dean Well-Known Member

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    Well done lintworm I Wonder what will happen on the crow front? I think they should be culled myself. Once on holiday in in Queensland over a decade ago now, I was told by one of our day guides that Common Myna, -Acridotheres tristis- was a wide spread and introduced pest and should be culled but no one was then listening. Later I was attacked by one in Centennial park in Sydney as I stood under a tree in which one had a nest it fed the chicks then dive bombed me, I had to duck pretty damn quick and run off rather fast. They did seam to be every where we went, and alledgedly doing as much if not more damage than the cane toad -Bufo marinus-. I think Madagascar can ill afford such an ecological problem
     
  2. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    house crows are shot on sight in Australia. They come in every so often as stowaways on the ships from Asia and the authorities don't want them getting even a tiny foothold in the country.

    Once they get established -- like the mynahs and bulbuls -- there's nothing that can be done.
     
  3. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    In the past 2 weeks, the rainy season has really begun, which is not that good news for people like me who love the sun. But it is good for the snails though and we find more and more active snails. The bad news however is that the leeches are also active. Every day when being in the primary forest I have the honor that many leeches like my blood. But fortunately leech bites are completely painless and they do not transmit nasty diseases, which the mosquitoes here do… The only nasty thing is that the bleeding does not stop when you remove them, so that can look quite dramatic in the rain :p

    But there are also other creatures that like the moist of the rainy season, such as all the land crabs. As a northern European I link crabs only to the sea, so it was already a surprise when I saw crabs near the streams here. But finding crabs all over the rainforest, even more than a kilometer away from a stream, was a much bigger surprise for me. And one of the crabs became the highlight so far. Not because this little red crab looked so amazing, but because his taste was irresistible for a ring tailed vontsira (Galidia elegans).

    One day when we went into the forest we saw a ring tailed vontsira just 200 meters outside the camp and it was obviously hunting on something that did not like to be eaten. Fortunately the only people allowed in Betampona are researchers, so most animals do not see people that often and are not afraid at all. This was also the case with the vontsira, as it gave a great show, just 7 meters in front of us in trying to kill the crab, without being hurt by the scissors. It took him about 10 minutes to get the crab killed and after that he just started eating it on the path. So when we finally decided to move on, we had to pass the vontsira, which only moved into the shrub when we were at 1 meter distance. I had seen this vontsira already quite some times in Berlin and Cologne, but in the wild they seem bigger, but they are also much cooler to watch.

    This week I also saw the diademed sifakas again. IMO they are the most beautiful primates in the reserve, but unfortunately also the most difficult to see. As they occur only in really low densities (there are probably only 25 in the whole reserve…) and they are silent. But when walking back to the camp there was just a group of 3 sitting next to the path. And sifakas are curious creatures, so all 3 went to get a look on what was walking there. So we got really good views of the sifakas and saw some cool jumps. But they are also very agile, so making pictures was difficult, although I have some low quality ones. Snails are therefore also one of the best study objects, as they do not walk away and you never get a blurry picture because the snail was moving so fast :p.

    This year alone I have seen 11 mammal species in the reserve, plus a pipistrelle bat awaiting identification. My goal is however to see not less than 50 mammal species during my stay in Madagascar, so I still have some work to do. However from next week onward I will start to do night work in the rainforest, so I hope I can add at least 5 mammal species during that work. And my plans for the last 4 weeks are also getting more and more clear. Then I will travel over half of the island to see more than just the rainforest. But because I do not know whether there will be a plane to bring me to one of the Madagascar highlights, I do not know whether I will be able to ad giant jumping rats on my mammal list or coquerel sifakas or maybe lac alaotra bamboo lemurs. Although they are all not bad options :p. All in all my goal for this year is to get more than 81 mammal species, which is the number I achieved in 2011. And as Madagascar probably won’t be the only exotic destination this year, I hope I will succeed .
     
  4. dean

    dean Well-Known Member

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    Fantastic narrative Lintworm I would love to see the crabs, I used to keep land crabs they are interesting but very messy constantly digging up there enclosure and upsetting water bowls etc. My partner hates crabs as muchas I do rats for some odd reason Being a cancerian I have an affinity with the species myself.
    Have you found any frogs especially mantellas on your travels through the rainy rain forests at all?
    I hope you get your wish to see all the 81 mammal species you are hoping to see this year, and then tell us all about them.
    Dean
     
  5. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    I see many frogs around here, but from only a few, the most common ones, I know what they are. About 5% of all the worlds frog species is endemic to Madagascar and the difficulty in IDing them ranges from "a pain in the ass" to "impossible". I quite often encounter a frog where even some leading experts are not sure in which genus it belongs, they are now testing it with DNA... I have seen 2 mantellas in the past 2 months, an Mantella ebenaui and a small species that was gone to quick for a good look...
     
  6. dean

    dean Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for that LW I have looked up the M. ebenaui as it was a new one on me. it looks rather like across between M. Crocea and expectata, nice little frog.
     
  7. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    Although I have been in the Betampona reserve 3 months now, I keep on seeing new things, not a lot, but still. I also expected that by now I would have the majority of the birds present here, but that is unfortunately also not true. By now I have seen just over half of the species here. And the species I want to see most here, the helmet vanga, is off course not one of them. But the past few days I was finally able to see number 2 on the list: the pitta-like ground roller. The ground rollers are one of the 6 bird families that are endemic to Madagascar (and the Comoros) and they do not look like rollers, nor does the pitta-like ground roller look lika a pitta… The first time I saw the ground roller was during the night and the ground roller was sleeping in a tree next to the path. Unfortunately it was a juvenile, so it did not have the nice colors of an adult, but still, it was my first wild ground roller, so I had then seen members of all 6 endemic families . And because it always goes like that, 2 days later I saw an adult, that was foraging a few meters away. The first 3 months no ground rollers and then 2 in 3 days… I hope the helmet vanga will also do that :p

    With three months passed now, I also have only a few weeks left here, before I go on holiday. And that is fine, because I have been here now long enough, I found my snails, including at least 1 species new to science and a lot that still has to be identified. And the weather being really bad the past few days also does not really help.

    When going travelling I may also find the first person here that is as tall as I am. Although I am “only” 1,85 meters, I have met nobody in the past 3 months who is of my length. Most Malagasy are around 1,50, so I really feel like a giant up here. It unfortunately also means that I am too tall for the hotel beds and the taxi brousse (the public transport) is also not really made for me. Fortunately I am also white, so I get a special treatment and in the taxi-brousse that means I automately get the seat with the most legroom, even when it means they have to remove other people… But there are not many white people (vazaha) that use the public transport in this area, so I am also kind of an attraction and people just start gossiping about me, when I am sitting next to me. Although I speak only 30 words Malagasy, I know they talk about me, as “vazaha” is one of those words… In the beginning I have tried to learn a bit of Malagasy, but I soon gave up. All the words are just too long to remember (that’s what you get if your capital is Antananarivo and the head of state has the longest name of all the world’s head of states…). And instead of finding shorter words, they just at random don’t pronounce the first and/or last part of the word, although they sometimes do pronounce the word as a whole. The only good thing about the language is that grammar is just lacking, you can just put all the words in random order and you do not have to care about verb, as there is only “to be” and not I am/ you are/ he is/ etc..

    Being white here also means that you have got lots of money, at least that is what people think. And the fact that I am a millionaire here says more about the currency, than about the amount of money on my bank account. 3000 ariary is worth 1 euro, but that is not that strange, it is however strange that the biggest note you will find is the 10.000 ariary note, so 3,30 euro/ close to 5 dollar. And it is also not so cheap here… So you end up with an endless pile of 10.000 ariary notes if you want to buy some stuff. That will be fun if I want to buy an airplane ticket, as credit cards are still a novelty…

    I do not know my exact program for the coming weeks, but in 3,5 weeks I will be giving a presentation at the university of Antananarivo, and I will probably be younger than all the students attending my presentation, and after that it’s finally travelling time and that also means I am going home quite soon. Madagascar is nice, but home is better and e-mails and skype cannot replace that….
     
  8. Chlidonias

    Chlidonias Moderator Staff Member

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    aha, welcome to my world in Asia :D

    In Indonesia the word for tourist is "touris" (slight change of pronunciation) and they don't realise that it is taken from English so they think you won't know they are talking about you :D
     
  9. Giant Eland

    Giant Eland Well-Known Member

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    Hey Lintworm! Thanks for the trip updates! Sounds amazing!

    I hope to visit Madagascar, maybe next year. I had a couple of questions.

    How safe did it feel overall?

    How good do you think my chances of seeing brown-tailed vontsiras are if I went to Betampona? Also same question for broad-striped vontsiras, and where would be the best place to see them? Suggestions for time of day?
     
  10. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    In general I felt quite safe, people in general are friendly and helpfull (apart from the part they want money from you), but I have never ever been outside after sunset in a city (except in a taxi three times) and I would advise you to do the same. I have heard several stories of white people getting robbed, especially in Antananarivo.

    You can forget to visit Betampona, as the reserve is only opened to researchers, but brown-tailed vontsira occur in most northeastern rainforests, but I do not know how easy it is to see them elsewhere, I have been into the forest about 80-100 times and I have seen the vontsira 4 times, of which 2 were rather brief sightings. Brown-tailed vontsira are active during the day (I had best luck in the morning, but also around 2 pm).

    Broad-striped vontsira are nocturnal and that is the big difficulty, because in all parks managed by Madagascar National Parcs (Former ANGAP), night walks are strictly prohibited. So you would have to find an accessible forest that is not managed by MNP, there is one at Andasibe-Mantadia, but you would have to be incredibely lucky, in over 20 night walks I have seen the broad-striped vontsira only once. But they have also visited the village were I lived once during my stay, but unfortunately I only saw the photos that one of the rangers made...

    But I would totally recommend to visit the country, as it is a whole different continent in its own and the country benefits from every visitor they get and they need it, especially if you are going to visit the more remote regions (such as where the Tattersalls sifaka are :p). And be sure not to try to fit to much in, because infrastructure is bad to horrible in many places....