Shrewsbury School

Biology Expedition to Madagascar, Summer 2013

Tuesday 27 August 2013

During the summer holidays 26 intrepid Sixth Formers and four members of staff took part in a Biology Department expedition to Madagascar, known by naturalists as the Eighth Continent – 90% of Madagascar's plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth.

Expedition leader Dr Richard Case gives a brief and tantalising account of some of the highlights, and you can also view a stunning photobook of the Expedition by clicking on the image below. (Please note that this is a large file - 20MB).

This is available in hard copy format. If you are interested in purchasing one, please contact Dr Case: rajc@shrewsbury.org.uk

Madagascar Expedition photobook

Our first week was spent in the Spiny Forest in the south of the island, where the team carried out surveys of vegetation - comparing plant diversity and structure in areas that have been disturbed by slash and burn, with more pristine areas. Operation Wallacea is generating large amounts of this baseline data so that their ecologists working on the distribution and abundance of birds and reptiles and lemur behaviour, can better understand how habitat disturbance affects wildlife – most of which is endangered. They can also understand how long it takes for disturbed forest to recover. We were also able to spend time observing lemur behaviour and measuring the distributions of reptiles and birds.

Madagascar Expedition 2013

We were greatly privileged to spend a day in a village. According to custom, the group danced into the village bearing “gifts from the road”. The villages slaughtered the two sheep the group had brought and cooked them while everyone watched the healer go into a trance to bless our journey north. Few Western tourists get to step into a Valo Lala to see a traditional healer (Ombiasa) at work.

Our journey north took the team to the littoral forest of St Luce and the mid-altitude rainforests of Manombo, Ranomafana and Anasibe. The first three days consisted of pure 4x4 adventure, with eight river crossings on the first day. We arrived at the seventh crossing to find the ferry broken down and after hours waiting, about 80 villagers paddled the ferry across in the dark to collect us. They made two more round trips to collect all our vehicles and allowed us to camp in their village.

Madagascar Expedition 2013 travelling north

The roads were incredibly difficult but took us through amazing landscapes inaccessible to most tourists. Highlights included seeing five species of lemur at Ranomafana, including the critically endangered Golden Bamboo Lemur, and hearing Indri – the largest species of lemur – calling at Andasibe.

The expedition gave us all a chance to appreciate how real ecology is done and work alongside UK and Malagasy undergraduates and research students. It allowed the team to contribute directly to conservation in an area where it is desperately needed. Above all, it opened the eyes of everyone to Malagasy culture, landscape and wildlife and the challenges the country faces.

RAJC

Madagascar Expedition 2013


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