Taken in Madagascar, July 2012.
I am so lucky to have visited this beautiful country. While I was studying for my Zoology BSc I decided to apply to volunteer with a fantastic charity called Azafady (now SEED Madagascar) who run a conservation programme. I traveled to Madagascar by myself stopping in Antananarivo for a week before flying to the Southern tip of the Island for 2 weeks of lemur and reptile conservation.
I assisted the researchers working in the littoral rainforest of St Luce, an area which is expected to be completely deforested by 2020 due to the mining of Ilmenite (used as a whitening agent) and local people using the slash and burn technique to clear land for cattle grazing.
I was able to see this beautiful rainforest in less than its full glory, and illegal deforestation was apparent everywhere. The wardens who are meant to prohibit this are very easy to bribe, and the local people need to use the rainforest for resources.
We would walk down narrow transects through the forest, during the day the activities would have been either lemur behaviour study, lemur survey, visiting the last 40 Dypsis stlucei palm trees to check for deforestation, or transect GIS retracking. At night it was either nocturnal lemur survey, or herpetological survey.
I think my greatest achievement so far is being told before we headed out on a herpetological survey that no volunteer has ever found a dwarf chameleon before. Palleon nasus (formerly Brookesia nasus) is a dwarf chameleon only found in that particular part of Madagascar and is special as it is the only species to not use it's tail as a fifth limb. I am proud to say that on my first ever herp survey I found six of them! The local guides said none of them had ever found more than five so they offered me a job! Unfortunately on my next herp survey I only found five.
There are many people doing good work in Madagascar to conserve whats left of the almost entirely endemic flora and fauna but I fear it may be too late. I hope that it isn't.