Charlie’s Travelogue II: Madagascar, 2-24-2018

By Charlie Welch, DLC Conservation Coordinator
February 24, 2018


Today the whole DLC-SAVA team headed south, to the town of Antalaha. First stop was the tree nursery belonging to Madam Marie Helene KAM HYO. Marie Helene is a pharmacist by training and by passion the proprietor of Macolline Reserve – she is a genuine tree enthusiast, with even a tropical tree species found first at Macolline officially named after her! Each visitor to the tree nursery is invited to plant a tree seedling in memory of their visit, so we of course oblige with pleasure. I would never miss a chance to plant a tree. DLC director Anne Yoder and I both did so on a visit in 2013, and our trees are prospering (although Anne’s tree ended up designated as “Anna Yoder”)!

Lanto, Marina, Fusiane, and Charlie (behind the camera) with the staff of Macolline Reserve in Antalaha.

From the tree nursery, it was on to Macolline Reserve itself, to observe a guided visit of young students by the well-trained Macolline staff, an activity that DLC-SAVA supports. We are able to help sponsor such youth visits through the generous support from the Seneca Park Zoo docents and society, who have been faithful DLC-SAVA supporters for years. This day’s group of students was led by environmental education specialist Rado, and an intern he was training. First the students received environmentally related instruction in an open air class room, then made a quick visit to recently reassembled interpretive center which was severely damaged in category 4 cyclone Enawo, just about a year ago. Such storms cause heartbreaking destruction, both to infrastructure and to the forest itself – but the forests recover more readily than the infrastructure does. Having seen photos from a visit to Macolline by Lanto and Marina about a week after the cyclone, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the reserve has now returned to the hill of green that it once was. Life bounces back and in the wet tropics, it bounces back quickly! We trailed Rado and the students as long as we could, before we had to peel off for our next rendezvous.

Rado with the students at the Macolline interpretive center; in the forest of Macolline.

The students (and Marina) at an overlook in the Reserve, gazing at the Indian Ocean.

From Macolline we went to meet the SIT Madagascar study abroad students, at the house of program director Barry Ferguson, just north of Antalaha. The 15 American university students and Barry were just returning from a weeklong marine biology excursion to Cap Est, down the Masoala Peninsula, south of Antalaha. As often happens in Mada, they were running a bit behind schedule, but arrived soon after we did. After the students had a short recovery rest from the long trip on a bad road, we were kindly invited to join them for a satisfying lunch which included yes, a sizable portion of rice. After lunch, the students politely focused their fatigued attention on me as I gave a presentation about the Duke Lemur Center and DLC-SAVA Conservation. After the presentation, several of the students expressed interest in the topics that Marina had proposed as independent project ideas with DLC-SAVA. Each student carries out a mini-study at the end of their semester in Mada and we hope that a student will choose to work with us on a subject matter that will benefit both student and DLC-SAVA. Stay tuned.

From our visit with the SIT group, we went back into town to a scheduled meeting with the director of the local university, which is known as CURSA. We have a successful ongoing collaboration with CURSA in which DLC-SAVA takes on CURSA students, particularly in the area of research. Each research mission that Marina undertakes in the SAVA forest always includes a student from CURSA, and we hope to expand that to other DLC-SAVA activities. Our meeting with the director produced some exciting ideas for expanding the collaboration in a way that could increase our local capacity building impact. So again – stay tuned!

Our long day in Antalaha had come to an end. A little over an hour’s drive over a stunningly good road (for Mada or anywhere for that matter) and we pulled into home base of Sambava just as the hot February sun was going down.