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Anakao, Madagascar

Feather Star
Feather star
Turtle
Turtle

During October to December 2000 I joined the fourth phase of the Frontier marine research expedition near Anakao in south western Madagascar.  The purpose of the expedition was to survey the marine life in that area.

We arrived in the capital, Antananarivo, and got straight onto minibuses for the two day journey down to Toliara, the nearest large town to the base camp.  The final leg to the camp itself was done by boat.

The base camp was a little luxurious by expedition standard, being a disused backpackers' hotel consisting of a main building and several sleeping huts.  We even had a regular western toilet, although we had to flush it with buckets of sea water and there were no showers, bathing being done in the Indian ocean.  The food during the camp was basically beans and rice for about ten meals a week, although we did occasionally get some fish.

Near the base camp are two islands, Nosy Ve and Nosy Satrana.  Nosy Ve is a reserve, being the only breeding ground in Madagascar for the Red-tailed tropic bird.  An area of the coral reef around Nosy Ve, named the Aquarium, has been declared a protected area by the local communities and is hence off-limits for fishing.

Spotted snake eel
Spotted snake eel

The work consisted of several different types of survey.  In the water we surveyed commercial fish, indicator species, invertebrates and habitat.  The commercial fish survey tallies the number and sizes of twenty families of fish that are used for human consumption.  The indicator species surveys counted the numbers of about eighty species of fish whose presence indicates the health of the reef.  The invertebrates survey counts the mobile animals living on the reef, e.g. lobsters, shells, etc.  The habitats survey examines the reef itself, looking at the cover of different types of coral etc.

Out of the water there were several projects to keep us busy.  Fisheries surveys consisted of visiting the local fishing village and recording the catch, and the "baywatch" project entailed observing and recording the commercial activity in the local bay.  We also went on a satellite camp to the local mangroves.

Myself, I was put on a special project.  As I was already familiar with most of the fish species I had the task of trying to come up with a complete species list of fish in the area.  During our stay I recorded 176 species of fish in the water, plus a few more from fisheries work.

Blue-and-yellow grouper
Blue-and-yellow grouper
Clown triggerfish
Clown triggerfish
Whitespotted puffer
Whitespotted puffer
Powder-blue surgeonfish
Powder-blue surgeonfish
Nudibranch
Nudibranch
Red Helmet
Red Helmet
Longfin bannerfish
Longfin bannerfish

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