Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hapalemur Halloween!!

Finally, finally, after several consecutive days of rain (6? 7? 8? I lost count and went a little stir crazy), the clouds briefly opened to a beautiful blue sky, and we were able to get back in the forest to continue our search for the hapalemur. Though the past few days have been restful-- what else to do on a rainy day but settle in with a good book?-- we have gotten a little restless, knowing that there were still a few animals out there that we need to collar before we can begin with data collection. Originally our goal was to collar all the animals by the end of October, so this morning was our last chance to reach that goal.

Before the rain started: 0.2 meters deep

This morning. 1.8 meters deep-- for the record I am 1.72 m tall!

Believe it or not, we were somehow magically able to capture the remaining 3 hapalemur, measure, and collar them. We reached our goal despite the week of rain, and the previous week of missed targets :) What a great treat for Hapalemur Halloween!

This means that next week (of course the rest of this week would be a holiday...) we can start with data collection. We will be working 6am to 6pm, collecting data on the animals' behavior and feeding patterns; more details on this to come soon!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Breaking the Dry Spell

Gosh it feels like forever since we last collared a lemur!! I know in the grand scheme of things it really wasn't that long, but it is frustrating when we cannot be in control of the situation. That being said, we finally broke our dry spell and had a very successful day in which we collared 3 hapalemur, the most we have gotten in one day, bringing us much closer to our goal of collaring the remaining 4 individuals by the end of this month.

Including this handsome fellow!

Alas, another dry spell has broken: the rainy season is upon us. And it has dampened our spirits and our progress, and most of all, our clothing! The forecast indicates sunny and warm all week but seriously the wind is whipping around us and blowing the rain sideways... feels like I'm back in Scotland! I hope you are all staying warm and dry wherever you are.

Walking back to our tent in the rain, late at night

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Illusions of Productivity, and some pretty flowers

Salama! Hi everyone. It has been a rather frustrating week so far. While we had a good run finding and collaring all the hapalemurs from Group 1, and a few from Group 2, we have had no luck finding the rest of Group 2, or ANY of Group 3!! We need to collar and collect each individual's morphometric measurements before we can start with any behavioral data collection, so it is really important that we find the hapalemur soon.

Part of the problem is a general lack of motivation/competence among the people that are supposed to be helping us. Usually we start out each morning with the intention of finding the hapalemur, darting at least one, and then we will try again in the afternoon; however, it is often too windy in the afternoon, which causes several problems, ranging from not being able to hear the animals' vocalizations (so we don't find them), to syringes blowing around in the wind, not hitting the correct target.

Exhibit A: this tree will soon be very sleepy.
Another problem is a confusion of priorities and time management. For example, on Monday morning our laboratory was filled with items that had been used over the weekend but not put away. The team told us that they could not help find the lemurs until they cleaned up the mess; fair enough. But when we showed up in the afternoon to start our search for the day-- the mess was still there! We waited an hour and a half while everyone scrambled to do the job they told us they were supposed to have done that morning. Could they have taken the morning off? We may not know what they were up to, but the common theme of the week has been an "illusion of productivity." Everyone is always very busy doing something, but nothing has been accomplished, including our own work. Every morning is the same.

So in all the time we have spent searching up and down and all around the forest, including a brief stint in which I got lost for about an hour (I swear I must have circumnavigated the entire forest that day!), we have not found any lemurs to collar.

Instead, I have found a few moments to focus my lens towards the beautiful blooming flowers, as well as some interesting insects and other critters. Here are some photos of the smaller creatures in the forest, in no particular order:

about as big as my palm

stick bug

what. on. earth?!?!

Periwinkle: used in treatment for childhood leukemia

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nightlife in the Forest

It is like looking up at a string of orange twinkle lights in the treetops, but actually it is the glow of the eye shine of several nocturnal primate species.

Who is hiding in the dark?

It has been really fun tromping through the forest during the day and observing the diversity of animals scurrying around, but it is a different kind of excitement walking through the forest at night. Every twig snap, every chirp, every rustle captures my attention, but I swing around and see only darkness. Or at best, with my headlamp beaming a narrow column of light into which I proceed, I see someone, some thing, staring back at me.

Though I'm ready to fall asleep after a long day (5am wake up call!!), many others are just getting started, including the dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleus medius and C. major, just coming out of hibernation), gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), and southern woolly lemur (Avahi meridionalis), and a few non-primate mammals such as the Dormouse tufted tailed rat (Eliurus myoxinus). I apologize for my lack of nighttime photography skills, but a few more night walks to practice fiddling around with the dials, and I may capture a few shots that are less blurry than the ones shown here.

Sadly, my best shot of a dwarf lemur; please excuse my night photography

Mouse lemur


Shame you can hardly see the  faces of this mother/infant avahi pair! I vow to get a better picture. The infant is on the mother's back, up by her shoulders.

I have also woken up a few sleepers, including some birds and chameleons. I had no idea that some chameleons turn white while they sleep! While I am sorry to have disturbed this individual, it was so cool watching as she changed to her more colorful self!

Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs bite! (seemed fitting...)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Week 1 bugbite count

For those of you that have ever gone camping with me, or even stood outside with me for more than a few minutes will know that I get eaten alive by bugs, despite efforts to avoid this, including wearing pants and sleeves in the forest, covering myself in 100% DEET bugspray, sleeping under a mosquito net, etc. Bugs feast on me. I think my record for one 24-hr period was 120 on my legs alone, and too many elsewhere to count (beach camping in Baja California, Mexico). The worst was a combo bug-bite/sunburn that resulted in 60 large purple welts (hiking and snorkeling in Costa Rica). So it's a small miracle I don't have more: the week 1 bugbite count is 38. A little constellation of bites on me is not too terrible a price to pay for this past week in paradise!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Baby pictures at Nahampoana

Hi Everyone,
Yesterday we went to the Nahampoana Reserve, a small park with four species of habituated lemurs, just a 90 minute walk from our tent. I was pleased to get several good photos of the Verreaux's Sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi), Ringtailed lemur (Lemur catta), and Red-collared lemurs (Eulemur collaris), and though the bamboo lemur (same species as in the study, Hapalemur meridionalis) were very difficult to see, I tried to snap a few pics of them too. I was delighted to see at least one infant of the first three species as well!