This past week was LEMUR ECOLOGY!!! We also got a sweet cyclone just before departure so all the roads to the spiny forest (although technically it was recently downgraded to a thicket because the canopy isn’t tall enough for a forest…pfff technicalities) were flooded and at times giant chunks had just fallen away, although I’m not quite sure where they went…we did also have our first super exciting road occurrence: one of the trucks got stuck and we had to pull it out with our truck, but not before we got some funny photos and Marley’s feet got wet.
Anyways, the really cool part of the 75km road trip was watching the landscape change drastically from wet, littoral mountainous forest to dry, spiny, cacti filled rolling hills. Even the color of the dirt changed from a dark chocolaty color to a bright copper that provided a great contrast to the succulent green plants.
When we finally arrived, we were given time to set up camp and relax before a field lecture on the spiny thicket. The following morning, I had milk for the first since leaving the states, and let me tell you, it was ridiculously delicious. Just after breakfast, while we were organizing, Anna returned from the squatters a bit shaken because all the termite damage finally took its toll: one of the boards gave way while she was standing on it and her leg took a plunge towards the rather disgusting contents below. Luckily, her leg didn’t reach the bottom, but she is now sporting several lovely cuts up and down her leg from the shredded wood. Once everybody recovered their wits from her close encounter, one of our professors N’iana came over and asked who wanted to be on lunch duty. This was the first time that we had ‘lunch duty’ and it really means who wants to be the executioner. I knew going into this program that students were asked to kill the chickens for their dinner, and I had accepted the fact before arriving, with the mindset that if I eat meat, I should have the full understanding of how it gets from walking around to my plate. Needless to say, it is one thing to read about it in somebody’s blog before coming, and another to have the task set before you. In total, there were seven students who said they would kill lunch. Of those seven, I was the first to go (I’m jumping in headfirst to everything). What surprised me was that it wasn’t a chicken as I expected, but a large turkey. I won’t go too much into the details of how one kills a turkey, as a favor to my vegetarian friends and those with gentler souls, but I will say that it was a very big learning experience for me since the next largest thing I have ever killed was a frog while driving. If you are squeamish, do not read the next few sentences. I was expecting maybe a hatchet, but instead I was handed a dull flat knife. The hardest part was starting through the gobbler and continuing to saw away while I felt the turkey gasping for breath. Literally, I could feel the muscles ripple in the neck and the beak open and close rapidly. I continued blindly hoping to quickly end the pour turkey’s life without much suffering. When it was all over, only two students had managed to watch and everyone, myself included was quite shaken. Beth, the only other student willing to go at that point, then bravely stepped up for her turkey (side note, the next day, three more students bravely faced the same ordeal only with chickens, and a freshly sharpened knife-I’m a trend setter?). As I walked into the spiny forest a half hour later to study lemurs, I hadn’t yet fully mulled over what I had just done. Yes, the turkeys were going to die anyways and they certainly had a much better life than those commercially raised in the states, but it was still impactful and hard. Thankfully, the lemurs quickly took all my attention from lunch duty.