It was great to be back with the frogs after our taxi brousse adventure. Our next adventure took us to the forest around Fierenana, just north of Moramanga. The road to get there was an adventure in itself. Victor our driver did a fantastic job maneuvering around the potholes, steering clear of the landslides, and crossing bridges just wide enough for the suspension of the land cruiser. We managed to get stuck only twice! But when we got stuck we were really stuck.
Five-six hours of bumping around in the car and pushing to car out of the mud twice we arrived in Fierenana. We got there much later than expected so we stayed the night in a local family’s house. After talking with the local guide we found out that the site with the Mantella milotympanum we wanted to visit was at least a 4 hr hike. We planned to start around 4:30 AM to get to the site mid-morning but of course in Malagasy time the porters arrived around 5:30. Eventually we were on our way to the home of Mantella milotympanum. The area around Fierenana is known for its rice production and the seemingly endless expanse of rice patties spoke truth to that. Not surprisingly, the trek began with a long expanse of rice patties. It was a balancing act to walk of the small dirt mounds dividing the rice patties. Most of the journey there was traversing rice patties and dirt roads on deforested slopes with some patches of remaining forest. After about 16 km we reached what the guide told us was the sight. Devin looked at his GPS and with a puzzled looked explained to the guide that the coordinates of the site were still a few km away. We mustered up the energy to continue and the trail entered a patch of forest which was much more enjoyable than the rice patties.
After another hour or two of walking we came to a clearing with a small house and Devin said we were within a km of the site. The porters and we were exhausted from our 23 km trek so we decided to set up camp in the grassy field by the house (with the approval of the owner of course). Luckily the rain let up when we were setting up camp. It was so nice to finally get our packs of and rest before sampling at night.
We travelled to a nearby river for sampling and there were tons of Boophis rappiodes calling along with other species. We sampled the frogs that night and got rested up for our early morning Mantella searching. We started around 6 and headed to a marsh that looked promising from the night before. As we arrived you could already here them calling and within minutes we caught the first one. They are such a cute frog! I also stumbled upon a Dyscophus guineti which was unexpected and cool. We ended the morning with about 20 Mantella and 4 Dyscophus which was a success for both Karina and I.
The next morning it was already time to hike out so we suited up packs and all and began our trek out. We had walked so far in that it was actually closer to hike about to another village called Ambohinydri. The trek was a series of rice fields, then a hike over a forested slope, then through another rice field, and up and over another forested slope. It seemed as though every valley had been taken over by rice. By the end the lower half of my legs were coated in mud from the muddy paths and miss-steps in the rice patties. By 2 our 20+ km trek out was complete and we were one our way back to Andasibe.
The trip was a success and we now have samples for potential probiotics from the endangered Mantella milotympanum!
Working to save the frogs,