[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][text_output]03/03/15 – 06.36am to 8.37am
Menalamba, Torotorofotsy Wetlands – Seeking Wild Golden Mantella
Four days into my first adventure to Madagascar and with only 2 weeks (at most) left of the breeding season for Mantella species in the wild, I decided that I would take the chance to find wild specimens of both the Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) and Yellow Mantella (Mantella crocea) in their severely fragmented distribution range in the Andasibe area.
So after hiring a recommended guide, Fano and local guide Rennie, Devin Edmonds and myself decided to travel to the Torotorofotsy Wetlands, and start our 45-60 minute hike to the Menalamba (Malagasy meaning basically “Red Cloth”) locality of the Critically Endangered species, Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca). The way was an old and used train line that had been used to transport Lumber for years from the Torotorofotsy, but now abandoned apart from the odd small collection of huts along the way. It was quite flooded due to the over night raining saturating the soil, which with every step, causing my footing to slip and sink. After a short walk of 45 minutes, we reached the sign informing us that we were now about to enter the Torotorofotsy, however firstly before I began my long awaited search, we had to cross an insecure makeshift bridge about 25ft in length upon a now fast stream… Was a mixture of interesting, scary and also fun but once over, we were finally there, at the famous and most studied site of the locality population of Mantella aurantiaca.
The woodlands were not only boggy due to the rains (Perfect breeding habitat for Mantella aurantiaca), but also incredibly close and dense, making it very difficult for someone of my height to traverse the area without getting caught up in branches. We searched and searched, listening intently to the highly recognisable calling of the species, under the calling of multiple other species of Boophis, Guibemantis and more, but to no avail. I studied the breeding ponds closely looking into the water to see if tadpoles were present within, however all that could be found were Mantidactylus-like offspring and after one hour, I made my way back to the pathway and met with Devin, discussing our next option and decided to move on to the next locality. We called out to our guides with the only response being a beckoning, to get us to come so we entered and encountered Rennie the local guide who only spoke Malagasy, who informed us that Fano had succeeded and found specimens. Upon hearing this, my excitement was increased and I could do nothing except move with haste towards the dream I had since I was a small boy. Each step felt like time had slowed, as if my mind was savouring this historical moment until finally I came across Fano kneeling upon the floor guarding and protecting the two most beautiful Golden Mantella specimens I had ever seen, a completely different colour to what I was used to and even bigger than captive specimens.
I stood in awe at them and eventually dropped to the floor to see them closer and to photograph them, to try and capture the moment for eternity. They were a Male and Female pairing, and apparently the male had been incredibly sly and called in short bursts, as if he knew we were searching for them and according to the guides when he stopped calling completely the female decided to venture out into the world.
I spent 20 minutes studying them and admiring their elegance and beauty until, I knew it was time to go as I did not want to stress them further and more than I had already done.
The walk back was full of promise, but also wonders at what else we could find that day, as we still had the wonders of the next Mantella aurantiaca locality and the hike through the Mantadia forests.
To be continued…
Joshua Ralph[/text_output][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″]
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