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Oh. My. God. This was a day, one I’m probably not going to be able to talk about in detail (Stop sighing in relief!) or else I’ll never finish. And since we have to get up at 5:15, I’d actually like to finish at a human hour and get some sleep.

We started out at Antasibe’s Analamazaotra Reserve, aka Perinet (pro: Perinyay, because it’s French), a national reserve. Regulations dictate that a local guide has to take people through the national parks, so Vy arranged for us to go with Etienne, who was another in a long line of knowledgeable guides with eyes that see the smallest creatures. We saw a lot of orchids – most of which didn’t look at all the way I think orchids look –


as well as dark green millipedes that curled into a ball when picked up (not, I assure you, by me), a giraffe weevil,


chameleons, geckos, a sleeping (on the ground!) collared nightjar that blended perfectly with its surroundings,


Here's a closer look:



spiders – one of which had built a web that spanned a river that was at least 12’ across –
(Sorry you can't see the web, too)


a number of awake birds, including a coua, a blue pigeon and a vanga, and...

...wild lemurs. The indri are the reserve’s piece de resistance, and we saw a troop of four. They were mostly very high in the trees and hard to photograph, but later we went back and they had come lower (though my photos still are pretty much crap). We heard their communication call, a loud, haunting ululation to establish territory. (They also have an alarm call and a mating call that sounds remarkably kiss-like.) And we saw them leap. And leap and leap. Amazingly, they leap standing up, using only their hind feet for takeoff and landing. I couldn’t get a picture, but trust me, it was amazing. Indri are black and white, and the largest living lemur species. (An extinct species was the size of an adult gorilla, and another was almost that large.) They have an opposable thumb, but the rest of their fingers are webbed together and can’t be used separately. They’re known locally as babakoto (baba means father), because according to the folktale, a boy named Koto went into the forest and climed a tree in search of honey. The bees objected and stung him so badly that he got too scared to remember how to climb down. An indri heard him and carried him down, establishing a connection with men. Indri are also the only lemur that can’t be kept in captivity, because their diet is so specific (certain types of leaves, as well as dirt for minerals) that it can’t be replicated, so they die.

Herewith, the best of a bad lot:






Really not a great shot, but it gives you a sense of how they move up in the trees:


A diademed sifaka:


A detail, so you can get a good look at the face:


Notice the tracking collar.


We also saw Eastern Lesser Bamboo bamboo (or gentle) lemurs, also known as grey bamboo lemurs, a very shy species and actually the first lemurs we saw today.





And last we saw the diademed sifaka, which in fact looks as if it’s wearing a crown. We walked for over three hours, a lot of it up and down quite steep hills, frequently making our way off the trail and through the forest, because the lemurs didn’t seem to understand that there were a bunch of tourists who’d come a very long way to see them, so they ought to make themselves available.

Speaking of tourists, only about 300,000 per year come to Madagascar at the moment, so come now! Really. Before it gets crowded and overrun, as no doubt it eventually will. (And, albeit reluctantly, for the sake of their economy and to build eco-tourism and save habitat, I hope that happens sooner rather than later, because later could be too late for the lemurs and the other species of animals and plants found here and nowhere else.) Also, speaking of tourists, I’m so glad Terry and I aren’t part of a large group. It’s wonderful to have what’s essentially a private tour of the island, and every time we go to someplace like Perinet, we don’t have to compete with a dozen other people for the best spots or whatever. (Well, not counting all the other groups at Perinet looking at the same indri we were. *g*) And some of the people we’ve run across are so loud. ::shudders:: Being only 2 really paid off in the afternoon, though. But more on that in a moment.

We had our picnic lunch in the little restaurant area at the entrance to Perinet. Before we ate, we visited the small vending area where several local women – wives of the guides, apparently – were selling embroidered shirts, 2008 calendars and tablecloths with matching napkins. I bought a burgundy t-shirt with a small indri embroidered where the alligator would be on a La Coste shirt and a larger indri embroidered on the back. All hand done – for the equivalent of about $11, or maybe $12.

Then it was on to the Vakona property, which houses two reserves, one for Nile crocodiles (and more, as you’ll see) and Lemur Island, for four species of lemurs.

We saw a lot of impressive crocs – including 6 that are only a few years old.



Here you get a good look at the difference between male and female tortoises. His lower shell is concave, so he won't fall off the female when mating.





There was also a beautiful bird (maybe a crested coua – Terry and I weren’t sure) who we thought was wild and just happened to be sitting in a perfect place to have his picture taken. But in fact he was tame and climbed right onto our guide’s arm, then followed us as we toured the reserve.





We also saw a handsome tree boa, who we both got to hold, and some beautiful birds: an ibis, Mellor’s and white-faced whistling ducks, a mystery bird (really just a bird whose name I've forgotten),


and a pair of stunning purple herons. Our guide let us into their cage to take pictures, something I noticed the large group after us didn’t get to do. As usual in the bird kingdom, the male's the gorgeous one.





I also got a shot of a goose walking by with her fluffy little goslings.



The highlight for me, though, was seeing fosas. Their closest relative is the mongoose, though I find them very catlike – they even have retractable claws – albeit with a longer muzzle. At around the size of a big fox, they’re the largest predator on the island, with tails pretty much as long as their bodies. We saw a male and female, and a pair of juveniles. They’re very inquisitive and, despite their sweet faces, aggressive. At one point I stood with one foot on a small stump and the other on the concrete lip of the youngsters’ cage so I could shoot through the wider gauge fence that started higher up. (My pictures still sucked.) They were checking out Terry and the guide at the time and didn’t even notice me. When I went to do it again later, everyone else was looking at the adults, and no sooner did I grip the wire to balance myself than one of them leaped up (about 4’ up!) onto the wire and I felt a fosa nose against my finger before I jumped down and it let go.

These were taken through wire, so they're not great.









Next, Lemur Island. I split this entry to keep it from getting even more hideously picture-heavy.

Date: 2007-11-02 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the-reverand.livejournal.com
The giraffe weevil is amazing, and the collared nightjar so lovely. He looks very comfy all snuggled down on himself. ^ ^ The Indri are really remarkable, and I can't even imagine gorilla-sized lemurs.

The birds are gorgeous and I hope M stops in to see them!

And the fosa are absolutely amazing. Seriously, nutmeg, I haven't even heard of most of these animals. I love how it is sort of both cat and dog-like, but that low and slinky front end definitely shows their mongoose relations! And I'm glad you didn't loose your finger to a fosa!

I can't wait to see more! ^__^

Date: 2007-11-02 07:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com
I've never heard of a fosa before, but holy crap, are they beautiful!

This trip looks just amazing. I love these pictures. Thanks so much for posting all this.

Date: 2007-11-02 11:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wildrider.livejournal.com
Oh, my, what awesome shots (even the ones you don't like). I'd never heard of fosa, either, and I've never seen such beautiful herons!!!

Gorgeous!

Date: 2007-11-03 12:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] angelchicken.livejournal.com
I am *loving* this journal! It is so interesting to see and hear about what you did! And Madagascar appears to be amazingly beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing!

Date: 2007-11-03 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mrkinch.livejournal.com
The weevil is gorgeous! I spotted the nightjar before I read the text.*g* I had a very similar species free in my livingroom long ago. He'd sit on a piece of bark and people would be in the room for hours, never seeing him if he didn't move, and you can see why!

Beautiful, beautiful birds and animals.

Date: 2007-11-03 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] victorian-tweed.livejournal.com
Oh wow...so many species I've never even heard of. *enchanted*

Date: 2007-11-12 09:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caerwynx.livejournal.com
The fosa is really not a feline?!?

Date: 2007-12-30 12:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] itsmepeace.livejournal.com
the fosa kissed you, how lucky!
you would think that they are feline, specially the claws as a hint, but wow, perhaps they are stuck in the madagascar..hee, i said it.. timezone and never adapted to what they should be..i'm speaking of way back when , when animals were mixtures ....but they are cool looking
weevil!

Amazing

Date: 2008-01-19 02:45 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
So... have you considered a new career with Nation Geographic Magazine?

No kidding, these photos are phenomenal, and I had no idea how beautiful an insect could be. Not that I'd want to share space with some of these...

Sue CB

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