24 February 2016

“My role in the zoo is very diverse but with one constant factor, feathers! While I write this I’m soaked to the skin and frozen, watching our pair of cassowary being introduced for the first time since they moved to their new enclosure in Islands last summer… neither of which, the weather nor the birds are particularly Madagascan but its going so well I keep finding myself thinking about all the amazing experiences I had during the expedition to Mangabe forest earlier this year!

“My role in the zoo as assistant team manager for both the bird sections meant I was fortunate enough to be selected as the avian expert during the trip and I was really looking forward to have the opportunity to see so many species of birds (and for that matter, mammals, herps, and plants) that exist nowhere else on earth.

“Knowing that we would be based in an isolated field camp, I was also looking forward to getting back to basics! My task whilst out in the forest was to survey the birdlife in the area and help to produce a list of species that could be used to develop a small eco-tourism income for the area via bird/wildlife watching tours and excursions. I work with a few bird species in the zoo that I could have expected to see but there were a lot more that I needed to know, so a few weeks before the trip I kept a field guide near by for some light bedtime reading.

Chester Zoo team with their thumbs up in the field in Madagascar

Mark (middle) with two other zoo team members

On the look out

“We landed in Tana late at night and with the exception of an unidentified owl and a few taxi drivers, the city slept. Waking up early in the morning my senses were bombarded, the smells from the fishmongers, butchers, street food stalls and exhaust fumes filled the air and the cockerels, dogs, car horns and excited school kids ensured I didn’t lie-in after only a few hours sleep. While in the capital we took the opportunity to visit the MaVoa office and meet the team, some of whom we’d be working with in the field, before grabbing supplies for camp and heading east on our way to our overnight stop in Moramanga.

Mark Vercoe looking through binoculars in the field