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By Kelly Barker, Durrell's Head of Marketing
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My Ampijoroa and other animals & Ploughshare tortoises
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Sunday 6th November
This weekend I have been at Ampijoroa where the captive ploughshare population lives. We currently have 284 ploughshares and are planning a release of 20 of them when Lee comes over at the end of November. Today I watched Tsanta and Ernest taking blood samples checking for diseases such as herpes because the last thing we would want to do is risk giving any kind of disease to the existing wild population.
I have spent quite a lot of time with Kitty Brayne who works in Comoros on a joint project with Durrell but is splitting her time now with Madagascar and helping us on communications.
Yesterday was really cool because we went into the forest and saw common brown lemurs, snakes, lizards and lots of birds. I am not a birdie but I went with Kitty and she’s a real bird geek so she was loving all the different birds. We also went onto the lake and saw a pair of fish eagles, crocodiles and herons etc. Last night we went on a walk and saw lots of chameleons and some grey & golden mouse lemurs which was fab! So nice to see more wild animals.
After dinner Ernest, who’s in charge of the ploughshare project at Ampijoroa kindly invited us into his home where we proceeded to sing karaoke from his laptop, it was hilarious! Even better we bumped into a group of students studying tourism and who were on a field trip at the national park. They had a couple of guitars and we joined in with them. Hasina played tune after tune – he is amazing on the guitar and the students loved it. They sang along to every tune. Hasina is a bit of a party animal by all accounts and told me that he would like to write a song about ploughshare’s struggling. I really hope he does because I think that would be the perfect way to communicate to the local communities more effectively and in particular the younger generation.
Monday 7th November
Had a great final day, although I have to admit feeling a bit ropey after staying up until 2 am drinking rum! Today I filmed Tsanta giving health checks to 30 ploughshares including taking blood samples to check for herpes etc. These are tortoises earmarked for release to Baly Bay at the end of November. Only 20 out of the 30 being tested today will go. We have to be extra careful that they haven’t got any disease that they could pass to the other ploughshares in the wild. Lee Durrell is coming over at the end of November and this is when they will be released which is very exciting. Kitty will be there as well, which is great news as we have more chance of getting it filmed and achieving better media coverage.
It looks like we need to push for a second captive breeding centre. This centre at Ampijoroa is full to bursting, especially after receiving a further 14 recently that were being trafficked out of Madagascar. If we can secure another site it will be closer to Baly Bay where the wild population is.
I'm going to have a nice early night as up at 5am for a 10 hour drive to Tana where I will wait at the airport hotel for my 1.30 am flight to Paris, then Paris to Heathrow, Heathrow to Gatwick and from Gatwick to Jersey. That’s a 36 hour trip!
Day 11 - My Ampijoroa and other animals