Page 6 - savanov2013newsletter

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P A G E 6
V O L . 2 , N O . 3
N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 3
American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) PhD Student,
Jen Crick, Visits SAVA Conservation
In August, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Duke Lemur Center’s SAVA
Conservation Project. Although my dissertation research focuses on conservation
genetics, I had been craving more field experience with lemurs and learning more about
community-based conservation in Madagascar. Dr. Erik Patel and the SAVA Conservation
team in northeastern Madagascar were kind enough to host me for a two-week visit
inside several reserves (Marojejy NP, Antanetiambo Reserve, and the forests of Daraina)
as well as in several villages where their conservation project has a variety of programs.
My first impression of the program was an eye-catching anti-bushmeat poster, before
I’d even checked into my hotel. I quickly became acquainted with other aspects of the
work when I met Duke University undergraduates Cameron and Sophia, who were just
completing their time in SAVA through Duke’s Engage program. Cameron spent his
summer mapping Antanetiambo Nature Reserve and Sophia had investigated local
preferences for and the availability of different species of fish in the market in Andapa. I
was delighted to see both Antanetiambo and the fish farm that spurred their research.
I visited the fish farm shortly after their first (very) successful harvest of
“fony” (
Paratilapia polleni
), the local fish that Sophia’s research showed was preferred
but not at all available in the markets anymore because its numbers have diminished so
much in local rivers. William, the caretaker of the pond, showed us how he monitored
the temperature of the water and the meal that he feeds the fish, which is made from rice
hulls, which are a waste product to humans, among other ingredients, and a little dried
shrimp as the protein component. The fish aren’t the only community initiative to see at
William’s place though. There are terraces that had recently been used to grow bok choy,
a nutritious addition to the local diet, and which will soon host a yam crop, since DLC
SAVA recently organized a training on how to grow the crop for people in the area.
At Antanetiambo Nature Reserve, we hiked to the group of northern bamboo lemurs
Hapalemur occidentalis
) that Desiré Rabary is habituating while also collecting ranging
(GPS) and dietary data. Along the way, Rabary and Jackson took turns identifying all of
the plants in the reserve and telling me about them, displaying truly encyclopedic
knowledge. We had a fantastic view of the animals, right off the trail, and even got to
observe some impressive foraging behavior when one of the bamboo lemurs spent nearly
15 minutes extracting the inner white pith of the tall green wild ginger plants. I was just
thrilled to see the animals so well, as this species is virtually an unstudied species (until
now), but Rabary and Jackson immediately set to work, practicing their data collecting
techniques on the GPS unit for the first dietary study of this species. At the top of the hill
near where the lemurs were foraging, there is a clear line of sight to the edge of
Antanetiambo and where the rice fields start. It is also very easy to see smoke from fires
being used to keep cropland clear. Without Rabary and DLC SAVA, it is all too easy to
imagine what could happen to the forest and lemurs of Antanetiambo.