Love At First Sight

Posted on 20 September 2006
Simpona Fotsys or Silky Sifaka (Propithecus candidus)
© Jeff Gibbs
Only two meters away from me, he is coolly leaning against a tree trunk and looks straight into my eyes.

Until this day, I haven’t believed in anything like ‘love at first sight’.

Now I know that I it does exist.

I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Since we 5 volunteers first spotted these so-called Simpona Fotsys or Silky Sifaka (Propithecus candidus), the lemurs with the fluffy white fur, we couldn’t stop marvelling at them. For 3 days, from the early morning hours until shortly before dawn, when they fall asleep, we’ve been following 6 Simpona Fotsys through the Marojejy National Park.

They have either a pink or a black face.

Only if we find out their nightly resting-place can we be sure to find them again the next morning. Without our two guides Desiree and Nestor we’d be completely lost in the jungle. These animals move so dexterously and quickly through the treetops that we have a hard time following them through all the thickets on the ground. Luckily, they only change place a few times during to day, usually keeping themselves busy with eating leaves and seeds, sleeping and fooling around.

The 2 pups of the flock are untiringly jumping around the trees and over the other Simponas. At one point we saw them play together on the flock’s only adult male, which can be identified by the brownish spot over its chest.

"Usually, it’s best for pups that are only a few weeks old to stay in the vicinity of their mother," explains Erik R. Patel, a scientis, who specialises in lemurs.

He is accompanying us on our research through the jungle. Five years ago, he conducted the first long-term study on Simpona Fotsys, a species which is actually among the four most endangered primates on our planet. To carry out his research, he had to spend 14 months inside the Marojejy National Park because this sub-species of lemurs can only be found there.

In a first period, Patel spent the nights in a simple tent since there weren’t any camps with huts and simple cooking and washing facilities around yet. Thanks to the WWF’s commitment, Marojejy was turned from a simple reservation into a National Park, which can be accessed by everyone. Aside from the conveniences of a secured path and the three base-camps, the WWF is also training local guides, who show some of the vast park’s diversity to visitors.

During my volunteer mission in Madagascar, I have come upon many unheard-of plants and animals, but the biosphere in the Marojejy Park beats it all. If I could, I’d spend another two months here. I would even gladly accept the 200 marching-miles, the 180 unvaried rice meals and the uncountable mosquito bites, if only it was for another glimpse of the beady eyes of these rare Simpona Fotsys!

Text: Corinne Eisenring
Translation: Sandro Trunz
Simpona Fotsys or Silky Sifaka (Propithecus candidus)
© Jeff Gibbs Enlarge