Reu was one of the lucky expedition volunteers whose name was picked out of a hat – a great opportunity to see first-hand our conservation work and the projects we’re working with.
Reu tells us more about his experiences and the support he gave to the rest of the team:
“Before our trip to Madagascar I spent time researching the areas that we were soon to visit-this included trying to find our destinations on google maps-the potential routes we would be traveling or researching some information on the local wildlife that I may encounter.
“I was so excited to be exploring the Mangabe forest-miles from civilization. Being part of a small team surveying the Madagascan golden mantella; I was overwhelmed being lucky enough to have the opportunity to go on this trip was amazing.
“My role in the group was very different to my usual duties at Chester Zoo! I’m used to being indoors serving our new and existing members and adopters but in Madagascar we were always outside…regardless of the weather.
“I was in one of the frog surveying groups along with Gerardo-Becca and Chloe. We had to survey the critically endangered golden mantella frogs from a series of six transects-the information that we gathered included body length-weight-sex and if they were carrying eggs.
“We then marked them with an implanted fluorescent silicone elastomer-using this method we were able to establish a database on new and existing mantella frogs that had been caught in the same transects from a previous survey in January 2015. This information gathered would then be used for future transect surveys to help understand what is happening with the population.
“The food in Madagascar was ‘interesting’ – it tasted very salty! The food cooked on the campfire had an earthy after taste-which was then followed by a rice broth that was boiled up from the water used to cook the rice! Yuk! Not my cup of tea. It wasn’t long until I was fed up of rice; it was just too much! I was amazed with the amount of rice that the locals ate. Their plates were like small mountains.
“We did however have a few surprises from the guides who had managed to get hold of some pineapples; all of us thought it was heaven with the strong sweet taste with a sharp boost of energy.
“During the time we spent in the forest we walked at least an hour each day to the frog ponds in temperatures that where at least 35 degrees-it was tough going especially when you got to a steep clay hill or having to climb or fight your way through bushes. This of course attracted some little horrors: the native leach.
“I hated them and at first was paranoid about them being on me but I soon relaxed and was able to focus on what I was meant to be doing. Working deep in the Mangabe forest it was very damp and humid-however was pleasant being in shaded areas compared to being out in direct sunlight. In some places it was infested with gnats or giant spider webs which were thick and felt like strands of hair.
“I also got the opportunity to spend time traveling out with the primate keepers Mark Wylie-Kate Brice and the guides to try and spot some wild Indri and Sifaka lemurs. We spent a few hours listening and tracking them down-we were lucky enough to spot the Sifaka lemurs which were as close as 30 metres away! They were fascinating to watch; effortlessly jumping between branches in their natural habitat.
“Overall I really enjoyed myself-taking part in the Madagascar expedition. The views were breath-taking. All the animals and insets were also very interesting. I learnt a lot about the different species-what they eat and how they behave in their natural habitat. I also met some really interesting people who worked for Madagasikara Voakajy-who we worked with as a team to complete the important golden mantella frog surveys.”