MBG: Development through conservation

Chris Birkinshaw (right) and Christian Camara (center), both of MoBot, inspect flora at the Ankafobe reserve

Chris Birkinshaw (right) and Christian Camara (center), both of MoBot, inspect flora at the Ankafobe reserve in Central Madagascar

Solofo, president of the local fokontany, shows off sohisika seedlings

Solofo, president of the local fokontany, checks sohisika seedlings at the nursery

Seedlings of sohisika, a tree endemic to only a few small stands of forest in central Madagascar

Seedlings of sohisika, a tree endemic to only a few small stands of forest in central Madagascar

Before leaving Madagascar, I took a day-trip with botanists Chris Birkinshaw and Christian Camara from the Missouri Botanical Garden to inspect a small nature reserve and several associated projects.

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≤20 seconds: Dancing lemurs

I’ve decided to begin posting video shorts — ≤20 seconds — of particularly compelling, stunning or funny scenes. Think slice-of-life moments that cry out for more than just a photo. I’ll be adding these from time to time to the blog in a separate category, as well as to a new YouTube channel.

The first (more lemur-induced laughs) comes from southern Madagascar at the Reserve de Nahampoana.

I can already hear exactly how at least one of you will giggle.

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Ring, brown and sifaka, oh my! (photos)

Lemurs and other wildlife from the Reserve de Nahampoana in southern Madagascar.

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Sifaka is pronounced ‘shif-akh’ (photo)

Hello, sifaka.

Hello, sifaka.

Cute little bastard, isn’t he? One of the Reserve de Nahampoana’s many funny “dancing” lemurs, so named because when on the ground they hop sideways everywhere they go.  More photos coming soon.

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Meat, glorious meat

Plastic wrap isn't exactly an option.

Plastic wrap isn't exactly an option.

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Does this look like a titanium mine?

The mining company's big gambit

The mining company's big gambit

I came to Ft. Dauphin in remote southern Madagascar for one primary purpose: to visit the Rio Tinto titanium mine that is pledging to be environmentally friendly.

This photo came from the nature conservancy at the first mine site in Mandena; the nursery above will be used when the company attempts the gargantuan task of regrowing precious littoral (coastal) forest out of fields of sand left behind by the mine.

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The simple (read: poor) life in southern Madagascar

Villagers in southern Madagascar

A typical roadside hut in southern Madagascar

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Tana’s charming views

Winding streets of Tana's hills

Winding streets of Tana's hills

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Sunset on a quiet beach

Isolated and beautiful

Isolated and beautiful

I’ve been in Ft. Dauphin, where the keyboards have the French layout and very few people speak English, for three days now. This, by right of its natural beauty, should be a perfect sun and surf tourism destination. Unfortunately for the local economy, it’s mostly empty (not withstanding the four French guys I met playing foosball who, again, spoke almost zero English).

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What can you do with 100 Ariary?

A gangster roll, but only $300

A gangster roll, but only $300

Madagascar’s currency is a mind-trip. Inflation (and I’m guessing poor central banking) has left large denominations mostly meaningless. At the airport in Tana on Wednesday, $1 was just shy of 2,000 ariary. The largest bill I’ve seen is a 5000 AR note. Do the math ($2.50).

Though my airfare was astronomical ($700 for the roundtrip from Nairobi to Tana and $425 for the roundtrip from Tana to Ft. Dauphin), prices on the ground are relatively cheap.

A coffee is between 50 cents and a $1.50. A 500 ml beer of Gold (the upscale brand that is actually not bad for a lager) is between $1.50 and $2.50.

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