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Blog from the field - Ankarafa forest at night
During the dry season the Lepilemur (sportive lemur) spend the day asleep in tree-holes. If the holes are low enough you can reach in and catch one. In the wet season, they reportedly sleep in tangles of vines high above the forest floor. Thunder grumbles in the distance as we prepare for our first nocturnal foray into the forest. We’ve no equipment, as the Zebu cart has yet to arrive, but we are all keen to go out and see what we’re up against. Our guide leads us out with bare feet. We clump after him in long trousers and hiking boots, clogged with red clay-like mud. Our head torches dance across thick bamboo, clumps of spindly trees, the muddy path and thick, hanging nets of vegetation. We thread through the forest single file and I realise that even if you are forth in the queue, somehow spider webs still attach to your face.
Muted messages are passed back down the line; ‘Wasp nest, don’t touch it.’ ‘Spiky vine.’ And the comment that sets your heart racing; ‘Eye-shine!’ ‘Lepi,’ our guide confirms.
We strain to get our first sighting. The lemur sits in the crook of a tree. It strips leaves off a twig and chews, unconcerned by us all milling about beneath. We agree it’s about four meters away, maybe five. An alarm call echoes through the forest. Our guide cocks his head, ‘Lepi,’ he says.
We look back at the lemur above and it jumps, lands in the next tree with barely a rustle and springs off again into the darkness.
‘When the zebu cart arrives, I’ll need a bit of practice with the blow-pipe,’ Michelle says with a smile as she looks after him into the trees.
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