Here we go, my first official field dispatch as WPC’s 30th Canada’s New Noah! For those asking how the weather is in Mauritius; SURPRISE! I’m in Madagascar. I’ve jumped islands and will be spending the first part of my journey exploring one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspots.
You would be hard pressed to find a naturalist who hasn’t daydreamed of visiting Madagascar. After separating from the ancient super continent of Gondwana 65 million years ago, the island has served as the ultimate long-term experiment in isolated evolution. The fauna and flora of the island are a mix of lucky cast-aways and Gondwana originals, like the iconic lemur, which have evolved in some unexpected and truly bizarre ways. This has resulted in the so-called “Red Island” having a level of species endemism which is almost unheard of throughout the rest of the world.
So you can imagine that when I heard it was less than a 2 hour hop, skip and jump from Mauritius to Madagascar, I leapt at the opportunity.
Briefly touched Mauritian soil before jumping another plane and hopping over to Madagascar.
However, Madagascar has a reputation for being a country where travel can be a bit tricky, especially for someone like me who’s français est trés mauvais and who only knows a handful of Malagasy words.
Luckily, Wildlife Preservation Canada already had some very strong ties to conservation here in Madagascar, in the form of WPC’s very own Executive Director Lance Woolaver, who previously spent seven years as the Head of Species Conservation and Research for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
A very excited, and slightly bewildered, New Noah, upon his arrival in Madagascar
Wildlife Preservation Canada executive director Lance Woolaver Jr. during his time in Mauritius.
Durrell has been operating some of the country’s most successful conservation projects since the early 80s. This success has in large part been due to the dedication of their staff and the development of methods which work to support both local communities and the management of critical habitats.
Upon arrival, I navigated my way through the charmingly chaotic capitol of Antananarivo, or Tana for short, and found my way to the Durrell Madagascar offices. After a few immensely helpful conversations with Aina Ramamonjisoa, Head of Finance and Administration, and Richard Lewis, the Director of The Madagascar Programme, a tentative plan was made. I say tentative because Madagascar is known for throwing a wrench into even the best laid plans. So, not wanting to waste any time, I threw my backpack into a taxi-brousse (translation: bush taxi) and hit the open road.
For the next few weeks I’ll keep you updated as I travel to some of the countries most exciting ecosystems and get an inside peek at a few of the endangered species The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust is working to save.
A sneak peak of things to come; surprise, I found snakes. Malagasy Giant Hog-nosed snake (Leioheterodon madagascariensis)
Madagascar is known for its diversity of lemur species, like this black and white indri lemur.
Canada’s 30th New Noah
Eric grew up in a small town on the shores of Lake Erie, and was fascinated with wildlife from an early age, a passion that he continued through his schooling at the University of Guelph and into his early career as a park naturalist and outreach educator at Killbear Provincial Park. Eric has been an active member of multiple reptile and amphibian recovery teams across Ontario. Most recently, he spent the winter working with the University of Washington on a study examining the interactions between a re-colonizing wolf population and white-tailed deer in Washington.