Call of the Indri

IndriiOf the many animals you’ve ever seen or heard in a zoo, you would never forget the Indri. If you could find one in a zoo, that is. They do not survive in captivity and are critically endangered with population numbers estimated to be well under 10,000, possibly as low as 1,000.

We were fortunate to see and hear a handful of these magnificent creatures (largest of the living lemur species) in the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park. I did not succeed in getting a very good recording of their beautiful, haunting voices, so I’ll link you to a Youtube video posted by Tribes Travel. Just click on the Malagasy name for the Indri, Babakoto, and you’ll be whisked away to the Madagascar rain forest (for a couple minutes anyway).

But today, I wonder how many of those voices have been silenced in the intervening months. This February, Madagascar authorities arrested Jean Yves Ratovoso, one of the leading wildlife officials whose duty it was to protect the Indri. They also seized the carcasses of 11 dead lemurs (10 Indri, 1 Diademed Sifaka). From the description of the location, I don’t believe it was in the exact same part of Andasibe we were in, but was nearby. Our guides names were Jacque and William, so likely we never met Jean Yves Ratovoso.

William_Jacque

Guides Jacque and William

I could sit here in the safety and comfort of my middle-class American existence, and denounce Ratovoso via my keyboard. But can I ever understand what he did? Poverty is rampant in Madagascar, even for those who earn a relatively reliable income from the tourism trade. Their resources are dwindling. Their society is changing, Fady (taboos) against killing or eating lemurs are no longer the deterrent they once were. Organized crime is there. And so, too, are foreigners willing to pay for a chance to eat a “forbidden” delicacy. As the natural habitats suitable for each species of lemurs are increasingly fragmented and encroached upon, their population decreases and their voices fade away. And even those who are sworn to protect them will violate that trust.

If you’re thinking of visiting Madagascar to see the lemurs, you should go soon, before the call of the Babakoto is only a fading echo.

My favorite Madagascar photo

GrayBambooLemur1This little guy (gal?), a Gray Bamboo Lemur, charmed me right away. Banana in hand, looking straight at me, little pink tongue sticking out – you can’t get much more photogenic than this.

Our encounter took place on Lemur Island, near Andasibe-Mantadia National Park on the eastern side of Madagascar. It’s a small preserve, home to a variety of rescued lemurs. It requires a canoe ride to reach it – about a 60 second canoe ride – so that adds to the entertainment value.

Many of the lemurs are habituated to humans and are easily persuaded to come check you out. The Common Brown Lemurs were the most social, while some were a little more reserved (like this guy and the Black and White Ruffed Lemur). This Gray Bamboo Lemur the only one we saw of its species on the whole trip.

GrayBambooLemur2

You may wonder what he/she is doing in this photo. Seconds before, the guide smeared some more banana on the tree trunk, so the lemur is licking it off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here, the guide is offering him a fresh green bamboo shoot, which he spent a few seconds thoughtfully chewing on before deciding we humans weren’t that interesting anymore, and leaped away in small bounds from tree to tree.

 

 

 

Mama and Baby (Elephants!)

I know how we all love elephants, especially their “little” babies. How would you rate the cuteness factor here on a scale of 1 to 10?

Here’s one mama and her adorable offspring on a leisurely stroll through the jungle.

Mama&Baby2

And in this picture, I think Mama Pachyderm is looking right at me. Is she trying to give me the stink eye? Is she saying “back off missy, this is my baby”?

Mama&Baby1

 

An Elephant Dust-up

I love this little five-photo series of two young-ish elephants having a little dust-up over a watering hole. (For those unfamiliar with the term “dust-up” it means a quarrel or argument.) I like using it here for obvious reasons. The dust they kick up helps capture the motion between the photos, as the elephant on the right chases the other one away.

Elephant Dust-Up 1Elephant Dust-Up 2

Look at those ears! All flared out in indignation. My watering hole! Mine!! All mine!!!Elephant Dust-Up 3Elephant Dust-Up 4Elephant Dust-Up 5

These photos were taken at Mfuwe Lodge in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

 

Answer to the “mystery bird” photo in my last blog: that was an African Jicana, common to southern Africa.

 

Mystery Safari Photo

Do you know what this is?  To state the obvious, yes, it’s a bird. (I have to include that comment for certain friends of mine who would immediately respond with that answer to the question. Yes, you. You know who are.)

Mystery_Bird

 

But what kind of bird? Hmmmmm……

This photo was taken in Botswana, specifically in a marshy area of the Okavango Delta.

Time for…The Birds!

Well, just one bird tonight, but I think you’ll agree that this little gal (or guy) is spectacular enough to have a blog posting all to itself.

I give you the lilac-breasted roller, one of the more common birds you’ll encounter in southern Africa. (The roller family of birds are so-named because of the acrobatic rolls they perform while flying.) lilac_bird

Isn’t she gorgeous? They’re easy to spot because of their bright plumage and because they like to perch up high in trees like this. I have many photos of these birds from most every location we visited, but this is one of my favorites (even though – if you zoom in – you’ll see the bird is not in perfect focus). There’s a couple of reasons: 1) the soft gray cloudy sky gives it a solid background for contrast and 2) because of the different textures of the two tree branches in front combined with the way they’re blurred because they are not my focal point. I do violate the rule of thirds for photography by having the bird in the center of the photo, but the branches and their textures are in the left third, drawing your eyes that way, so maybe we’ll just think of those photography rules as being more like guidelines anyway.

A leopard doesn’t change its spots…

…and we certainly wouldn’t want them to, would we? Because they are beautiful! This gal certainly is.leopard_drinking1 We encountered her on our last afternoon in the Okavango Delta, drinking from the river. She paused only briefly to check us out (look at that pink tongue!),leopard_tongue2

before sitting down to contemplate her dinner options, or where that handsome male leopard might be, or maybe even the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything [which we all know is 42].

We (our safari jeeps and a couple others) proceeded to follow her for almost a half hour as she leisurely strolled through the bush, apparently with no particular destination in mind or even any concern about us. You can see her pass between jeeps here, stopping only momentarily to look at us and continue on her way. I imagine this happens to this gorgeous gal a lot. (The guides who work the Okavango Delta are very good and know the animals, their habits, and their habitats. They might not be able to find every animal you wish to see, some are too rare or too shy, but they know where the big cats are hanging out!)

She decided she’d had enough of us shortly after this, walking a bit further away (I love this one picture – on the left – because I captured her in the act of lifting her foot and you can see her foot pad). She sat behind a tree for a few minutes and then disappeared into the bush.

It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the Delta.

 

Is there anything cuter than a baby elephant?

Silly question. Of course not.

So here’s a picture of a baby elephant w/mama, nursing.

nursing_baby_elephant

This was one of the local herds. They were there in the mornings, enjoying the watering hole across the road from our camp. (This, by the way, is an example of the differences between dry season safaris and wet season safaris. As the dry season progresses, and the number of watering holes diminish, all the animals congregate closer together. So – in November – on that cusp between dry and wet, the animals came to us. In the wet season, they have more options, so disperse more widely. I’m told there’s a LOT more driving on those safaris.)

The herd seemed somewhat habituated to humans, but that certainly doesn’t mean they trusted all of us, especially when there were babies present. You’ll see in this photo series, a baby who’s separated a bit from the others, but as soon as the herd noticed we were watching, the adults rushed in to keep the little ones closer.

We maintained our distance, of course, as instructed, but still there was at least one elephant who would stand sentry. Given the matriarchal nature of elephant herds, we imagine this is an auntie who’s keeping an eye on us. auntie_watching

There were at least three babies with this herd, but it wasn’t always possible to get good pictures of all of them, so I thought I’d end with this cute little one following mama, finally having had enough of us spectators. mama_and_baby

Things That Go Bump In The Night…

Well, maybe not bump but roar or grunt or snuffle as they skitter and skulk.

Quick, all you amateur trackers, what animal made this print? (Yes, there’s a quiz at the end of this blog.)

hyena_print

Yeah…it’s not the best photo. I couldn’t identify what left this track either. So it’s a good thing we had expert guides at our mobile tented camp in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

But first we’ll rewind to the night before (our first night on safari). Exhausted, stuffed with the excellent food prepared by the camp chef, we collapsed on our cots inside our tents (I think I hadn’t bothered to undress)…but unable to fall asleep quickly because of the heat (November is late spring in the southern hemisphere). Well, I was unable to fall asleep. My friend, Bobbie, began softly snoring after a bit, almost unheard against the roars and grunts of the lions off in the distance. There were other animal sounds too, being that we were the middle of the African bush with all manner of wildlife surrounding us. But the lions were the loudest.

So it was rather startling, around 1 am, to hear something walk stealthily across our “porch” (the green fabric in front of the tent with chairs and water bucket) – something with four legs. tent_wbobbie

Then it left. I thought. The faintest of noises made me turn my head to the screened window at the head of my cot just as a four-legged shadow darted back around to the front of the tent again. A lion? It was maybe lion-size (a small lion), but I couldn’t tell, so I lay frozen wondering what it was doing, daring myself to turn my head toward the front screen. (Safari-goers are, of course, instructed to never leave their tents after dark for safety reasons.)

And then…”lap, lap, lap, lap, lap” (Ever have a large dog? You know that lapping sound they make as they’re slurping up water from their bowl? Yeah – that noise.) The animal, whatever it was, was drinking water from our bucket! It then slipped away into the night. waterbucket

So we had an interesting tale at breakfast the next morning and the guides came to see the tracks left around our tent.

So the answer to today’s quiz? Hyena! (Did you get the answer right?)

Of course, the real question of the day is: is Bobbie washing her face (in the middle photo) before or after we asked the camp staff if they could replace the water in the bucket?