Madagascar RAP: “Perfect Nature”

As part of a CI-organized Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) off the northeastern coast of Madagascar, an international team of marine scientists is spending three weeks exploring ecosystems, documenting species – and reporting back to us about what they’ve found. Read all of the team’s posts from the field here.

Two nights ago we arrived back in Ambodivahibe Bay, from where I wrote at the beginning of the expedition. We had a few more sites to visit here, some unfinished sample collection.

But by now we have a good understanding of the biodiversity of this area, a part of the coastline so far unknown. We have discovered a high diversity of coral, fish and seagrass species, and found at least four potentially new species of coral associates.

This area is unique in many ways. It may not be as easy to reach as the blue waters of western Madagascar, but it is diverse in habitats and species, and above all it is undeveloped, unexplored. Thus it is crucial to protect this region now so that future coastal development will not jeopardize the marine environment and its resources.

On our last day, we return to the village we visited earlier in the trip for a community gathering. First, Monica, Bemafaly and I are taken to visit the school that CI helped to build two years ago and we donate some supplies to the teachers and the students.

We then head for the community gathering, held under a vahibe (rosewood) tree. With the village’s president and other residents, we exchange ideas on how to approach sustainable resource management that will enable the people of Ambodivahibe to continue to fish and survive here. Monica and the CI staff in Diego will continue to work with these people towards this important goal. After the meeting, we spend some time with the children, lending them our mask and snorkel and enjoying their amazement at being able to see underwater!

The time has almost come for us to say “veloma veti veti” (until next time) as we set sail one last time. But Keith and I haven’t had enough and ask to be left behind in the mangroves to take a few final photos of the barracudas, sweetlips and other fish that live in the trees’ roots. Mangroves provide habitat for a large number of species, and their roots, together with seagrass, form an impenetrable and fascinating ecosystem. As one of our Malagasy friends kept saying to us, “This is perfect nature.”

An hour later, the sun is quickly setting and we start thinking the boat has forgotten to pick us up. We are worried that we will have to swim back in the dark and with a full set of camera gear. But as our panic increases, we see a light slowly approaching, and we are happy to have another good story to tell.

Giuseppe Di Carlo is the manager of CI’s Marine Climate Change program.


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