MYSTIC JOURNEYS : MADAGASCAR
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Mix between traditional houses and more modern style architecture in Antananarivo. Credit Domoina R. In Tana, you cannot find lemurs in the wild. They are definitely better off free, but since their habitat and lives are critically endangered, many parks, reserves and NGOs like Lemur Conservation Network are striving to save what is left. During my travels, people often asked me if lemurs could be seen wandering everywhere in Madagascar which would be awesome by the way.
If you live or spend a few days in the capital and wish to spot some lemurs, the only places you can are actually in parks.
The answer is no. These are shots of lemurs I spotted at Tsimbazaza about two weeks ago while I am in vacay in Madagascar. Unfortunately, lemurs in parks are mostly kept in cages, which made me feel sad. The best would be to visit national parks and reserves around the island where lemurs can wander freely in the forests!
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Many times during my trips with my family in the 90s, we helplessly saw acres of forests and grasslands burning on the sides of the roads. Originally, this ancestral practice was intended to burn a piece of land to make it more fertile in order to grow rice. However, with time, this practice started to become out of control. Some NGOs tried to take some actions, but without logistics from the local government, I guess it was impossible. There was nothing such as firefighters or special planes filled with water going to the bushes to stop these fires.
They could keep on burning for days, weeks or even months. There has been a real shift in mentalities about conservation in the 80s and 90s I think. I could feel and see it all around me without really knowing what to do. Malagasy people used to be the guardians of the rainforests and the fauna of Madagascar, they now have become their main threat.
Lemurs are one of the most affected species from human actions: they lost their homes; some of them were illegally traded as pets on international markets and finally some were even locally consumed in the villages. Humans are today their only predator, which is a sad situation. I decided to write my first blog article in order to share my personal experiences with traveling in different places around the world. While I was growing up on an island filled with unique animal species like lemurs, I noticed that other kids did not know about other parts of the globe. I remember seeing that show translated on French TV channels.
Taro plants growing at the Tsimbazaza Zoo in Antananarivo. Credit: Domoina R. Kids absolutely love King Julian and his other lemur friends! However, despite that movie, people still got mixed up about the exact location of Madagascar on a world map sometimes. Scientists or people who have a keen interest in nature usually get less confused.
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Having studied and worked in the International Tourism Development field in Canada, I can say that this confusion or lack of awareness has both pros and cons. Pros can be that Madagascar has managed to avoid mass tourism over the years, which usually became detrimental to most tourist destinations in other parts of the world, mainly due to negative environmental and social effects. However, cons could be that it has remained sort of isolated since the end of colonization in which, combined with continuous political unrest, has led to environmental and social issues, from the inside-out.
Tourism in Madagascar could not become a potential catalyst for economic growth and a driver for eco-tourism, as the country was probably perceived as too mysterious and unstable. I have had the opportunity to make several presentations at my university Thompson Rivers University about my home island, its endemic fauna and flora, ad Malagasy culture. I was the only student from Madagascar there and was surprised that each time a lot of students and professors heard about my country for the first time.
Even though I felt a bit sad about those who never heard of Madagascar, I was so proud to be able to be a sort of ambassador for it by sharing my knowledge about such a unique place on Earth not to brag about that, but Madagascar is truly a great place! I took two teaching jobs one teaching French and one teaching English in Kamloops, Canada, and I had the pleasure to share a bit about my country and lemurs with my multicultural students. But this is the unfortunate truth. I worked for a Canadian tourism company based in Vancouver last year and had the opportunity to visit the Vancouver Zoo at a point.
I must say I had mixed feelings spotting a few lemurs there: I was happy because I think it is great to create awareness around lemurs in zoos in the world, but I was sad too because I know how much better it is to see them in their original habitat, having seen them in the wild when growing up. I hope zoos will not be the only places where lemurs will be found in future! Keep sharing awareness and love around Lemurs wherever in the world you are! They are amazing creatures that need to be protected. And if you have the chance to travel to Madagascar, give back to organizations that really strive to save lemurs and their habitat, like Lemur Conservation Network LCN.
My love story with Lemurs and my home country have led me to educate, volunteer and contribute to important causes, which will probably be the topic of my next blog post. I hope your journey brings you to do amazing things too for lemurs and conservation as a whole. Talk to you soon! Why Lemurs? In this blog post, Domoina shares her love for lemurs, talks about visiting Berenty Reserve and exploring Madagascar as a kid, and encourages us to travel to Madagascar and support lemur conservation. Simon Armitage.
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