News - February 1, 2015

Kept awake by mating fossas

Who: Lisa Broekhuizen
What: Course on International Conservation at the Tropical Biology Association
Where: Madagascar, Kirindy Forest

‘It is not luxurious of course. In Madagascar we slept in tiny wooden huts with just a little water for washing yourself – two buckets per person per day. You took showers in a little hut without light. When we ate, insects often flew or crawled onto the food. A lot of insects in Madagascar haven’t been named yet, so it was quite possible that an unidentified species was sitting on your rice. Fossas played the leading role during my stay. They are feline predators which are only found on Madagascar, and are rare there. My teacher, who was doing research on fossas, had only seen them from a distance. But this time they came very nearby. One fossa came right into our dining room to drink water. Another female specimen decided to pick my hut for her amorous escapades. I could hear her mating under the floor, right beneath my bed. Night after night. The problem is that mating fossas sound like a cross between copulating humans and fighting cats, only 100 times louder. If you went into the hut during the day you sometimes woke up the fossas and they just went at it again.

During the day I carried out forest inventories. On one day we might have to inventorize 25 square metres of forest. That doesn’t sound a lot, but if you think about the fact that there are often 25 bamboo plants per square metre, it was quite a job. We had lectures after dark, because it was too light during the day to see the projection from the beamer. I went to Antanarivo, the capital, as well. As Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, we had to take good care of our belongings. But you can make mistakes about that too. One time we were followed by a group of street children, which automatically made me extra alert about my stuff. But they had other ideas entirely, as we realized when they started posing. They stood smiling for a photo and then most of them ran away before they could see the result. Next time I will take a polaroid camera along so I can give them a photo.’