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Dr Russell - Op Wallacea Madagascar - 2nd August 2011

Day 14

This morning Ben helped me do an inventory check of the medical equipment.  A necessary but time consuming task, we were interrupted by three school students towards the end.  “Can you identify a snake we’ve found, Ben?” Ben replied that he would in a minute, adding “where is it?” “Oh, it’s here.  We didn’t know what kind it was so we picked it up.”  We turned round to see them holding a four-foot hognose, not venomous but known to be quite aggressive and able to give an unpleasant bite.  Fortunately it was being remarkably placid and Ben was able to take it and release it without the snake or the students coming to any harm.

This afternoon, we walked up with the students onto Route 2 to do a forest plot.  This is about measuring tree density in an area to help calculate the amount of carbon ‘stored’ in the forest.  On the way we stopped to do the inevitable fossa bait check (getting fairly pungent).  No fossa tracks, but tracks of the crested ibis.  Two of these birds were seen here by Felix this morning.  These are remarkable birds, looking almost pre-historic and being far from common.

Once the first forest plot was done, Ben and I wandered back to camp ourselves stopping to film some of the moonscape that was previously forest. The burning has left little behind aside from charred dead trees and a worrying exposure of sand – there is very little soil here.  This area forms a bowl around the lake and it seems fairly clear that the heavy rain of the wet season will do little other than wash and erode this towards the lake which will then be under threat. 

Getting back to camp we found some common brown lemurs right on the edge of camp, within about 3m of some of the tents.  Thankfully they don’t seem to be hunted here so aren’t too bothered by humans.  They were eating hard brown fruits that were being stuffed into their cheeks, hamster-style.  Quite funny to watch.

Back in camp and one of the guides produced some wild honey comb – delicious.  There is still a degree of hunter-gathering here as well as the obvious farming.

In the evening, took a few portrait photos around the lake as the sun was beginning to set.