It is great to be back in Madagascar! On Nov 5 we departed Tana on our way to our first destination Pic d’Ivohibe . This special reserve is located south of Andringitra in the south east of Madagascar. This year there have only be three visitors to the reserve and the only herp trip there was completed in 1999. Devin, Ando and I were all full of excitement to visit the “unherped” Special Reserve of Pic d’Ivohibe.

The drive south took 2 days. On the first day we traveled from Tana to Ambalavao, then to Ivohibe on the second day. On the second day, the landscape was so different than what I have seen in Madagascar before. I stared in awe out the car window as we passed gigantic granite mountains amidst the savannah like habitat. We easily traversed the first stretch of the road but near Ihosy we turned onto a dirt road and bumped side to side for about 6 hours before reaching Ivohibe. It was so nice to sit still for awhile while we met the MNP staff and organized the trip logistics.

We spent the night in Ivohibe to rest up for our trek into our first camp site the next day. Our team had grown from 3 to 18 as we were now accompanied by our professional amphibian guide, Solo, 2 MNP agents, a local guide, a cook and 10 porters.

team photo

By noon we were on our way to the first camp. The firth stretch was through open deforested habitat where the sun really was beating down but soon we arrived at the limit of the reserve and were surrounded by rainforest. At the first stream crossing we were surrounded by the single chirps of calling Mantella baroni. The baroni are reported to have unique color patterns so we were anxious to see what we would find. Within minutes the guide had caught one, and indeed it was like baroni but completely green on is back. SUCH A COOL LOOKING FROG!

mantella baroni

The camp site was along the same stream called Maravitsika, and we were completely surrounded by calling Mantella. And The first night of sampling yielded 45 frogs including Mantella, Mantidactylus, Boophis and Gephyromantis. It was great to be back out in the forest!!

Boophis sp. aff. quasiboehemi

Mantidactylus aergenteus

On the second night we planned to go to another section of forest to the east of camp. As we walked along the main trial we soon heard some voices, which wasn’t too uncommon because many local people had passed during the day as well, but then we heard the noise of a gun being cocked, and we stop in our tracks. This region is within the zone of the dahalo (the cattle thieves) so there were two options: a group of cattle thieves were around the corner or it was the police that patrol for the Dahalo. As they came around the bend my heart was racing but soon they were exchanging what seemed like pleasant conversation with our guides. I breathed a sigh of relief as they passed by and I saw police written on their shirts.

That was a little too much excitement so we decided to head back toward camp and search the forest section upstream from camp. It was another rewarding night with a few new Boophis species, and a Platypelis grandis, which is one of my favorite frogs in Madagascar! I love its big toe pads 🙂

Platypelis grandis

Next we are heading to a high elevation site within the reserve and I’m sure that exciting things await us!

Working to save the frogs,

Molly