01/03/15 – 12.30pm to 5.25pm
Mitsinjo Forest, Andasibe – First day continued – Into the Forest.
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Whilst during my first time at the Mitsinjo Breeding facility, I met some members of the team including the team supervisor, Justin Claude Rakotoarisoa, who is well known for guiding Sir David Attenborough around the Mitsinjo Forest and also British actor Martine Clunes, at the time presented the ITV documentary “Martin Clunes: The Lemurs of Madagascar.” We discussed many things, including some of my experiences working within the industry and what I will be doing whilst spending my time here, however one thing that was discussed in great detail is what is performed on a daily basis.

Several technicians work daily, each of them on their allocated sections of the following:

  • MP7 + Surplus
  • MP8 + F1
  • Husbandry Research
  • Livefood & Culture Maintenance

However, when working with the amphibian livestock, they health check, visually, every single specimen within the collection, that’s well over 800 animals in total. I was pleasantly surprised and also incredibly impressed, as it is not a practice I had encountered before and that is on top of humidifying the exhibits, feeding the specimens on set days and cleaning at least one exhibit from each of the sections.

After a relatively short day at the facility for my first day, Devin and myself started to walk back, stopping at the reception area before hand so I can look at the prices for the Guides and different tours available, and with a moment of spontaneity I decided to try my luck and enter the forest to find the famous Indri Lemur (Indri indri) and more importantly to me, species of Herptile. I had been hearing the siren like calls of the Indri most of the morning, I never thought it would be that easy to hear and also, so close. I decided, much to the shock of the Guide that I would go on the 4-5 hour hike, regardless of me still not having recovered from the flights the previous day.

So, we headed off into the forest, ready to find the wildlife I had dreamt for so long to see. My head was an assortment of different thoughts and my curiosity was peeked. We finally arrived at the forest entrance; I stopped for a moment to admire its utter unspoiled beauty and then carried on. The winding path alone held a fantastic amount of Fauna and Flora, I couldn’t believe what my eyes showed me most of the time, our first encounter was something no bigger than the size of a Mantella species and looked very similar to that of Mantella betsileo, this was a Mantidactylus melanopleura specimen, we looked at it for a bit then decided it was time to move on. Carrying on our hike, the pathway became steeper and steeper and more dense with the foliage surrounding it and out of nowhere the guide suddenly stopped with me almost knocking him over in the process, I apologised and with no words, he simply pointed towards the foliage, I searched and searched scanning the area until a tiny movement gave what he had found away. It was beautiful and entirely marvelous, the most perfect looking Brown-horned Pygmy Chameleon (Brookesia superciliaris) specimen I had ever seen, I grabbed a stick and the animal climbed upon it and I studied it closer. Even though it was not the smallest species of Brookesia, it was still unbelievable how small it was yet has everything it needs to live, a heart, liver, lungs everything… Truly amazing!

At this point the guide ran off into the forest saying that he was going to look for Indri and work out which direction they could possibly be… I wasn’t complaining about being alone though, he left me to watch the Brookesia specimen!

After 10 minutes, he returned pointing me in the direction that was easterly, we carried on making our way through the forest, eager to see more within their natural habitat. Then all of a sudden, we came out off the forest into an open area with an incredibly large pond in the center; with a huge chorus of both Anuran and Invertebrate calls, which literally rang in my ears with how loud it truly was. We were in the Parc des Orchidee (Orchid Park) and the Amphibia were everywhere. The main species of Amphibian I came across though, which is incredibly common within its distribution range is the Madagascan Jumping Frog (Aglyptodactylus madagascariensis) a species I had seen in many different books. This species, the male specimens to be exact, tend to change colour during the breeding season, to a beautiful bright yellow/orange almost like a Canary. We didn’t just come across one of them though, oh no, we must have seen approximately twenty to thirty specimens in total; it was like I had died and gone to my own personal heaven!

After a short while, my time was up and we had to walk back to the entrance of the forest. It truly was an enthralling first time out in the forest, and I simply couldn’t wait to go out again…

Joshua Ralph
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[/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”3/4″][text_output]Joshua Samuel Ralph, a Zoo Keeper specialising in the field of Batrachology (Studying Amphibians), has specialised and fantastised about keeping and working with Amphibia species since he was 7 years old. Joshua seeks a career in Conservation of all Amphibian life, however with one particular genus in mind, the Mantella frog of Madagascar, which he has been breeding as a private keeper for most of his life. After spending some time in Madagascar, Joshua truly saw the issues and threats that not only Amphibians face in the wild but also most species of Fauna and Flora across the island. From writing in media publications including Magazines and working in the field, Joshua hopes that he will not only raise awareness for conservation efforts of Amphibia but also his passion for this truly remarkable Class of life on Earth using many different methods, now including the ASA & ASG.[/text_output][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][line]
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