Guest post written by Edward Covello
I always wanted to travel to Madagascar, land of the unusual. It was one of my travel and photography dreams. The reptiles and mammals there are unlike any others found on this planet.
At the top of my list was the lemur, a small primate believed to be descended from the ancestors of monkeys.
There are about 50 types of lemurs in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. They range from the tiny pygmy mouse lemur weighing an ounce and living in the knotholes of trees, to 15-pounders about the size of a large house cat.
Lemurs have special gifts, such as the ability to leap up to 25 feet through the forest canopies in which they live. They are perhaps the prime animal attraction of the country.
Although lemurs adapt easily to humans and are affectionate, they are an endangered species and poor candidates for pets. Their insatiable curiosity would likely create chaos within a few hours!
For two of my five days in Madagascar I camped out with a small tour group in the Western dry forest, which is home to several species of lemurs. One of the guides in our group introduced me to a local expert in tracking lemurs.
After a 45-minute trek into the forest, the lemur guide stopped, pointed to a small clearing beneath a canopy of trees, and motioned for me to walk through the brush into the clearing. I squatted on the ground, my camera ready, and looked upward. What I saw was worth the entire trip. There were two packs of lemurs, of two different species, jumping all over the tree canopy above me. They were quite chatty, probably wondering what I was doing there.
The first lemurs I spotted were Red Fronted Brown lemurs.
One of the bolder lemurs from this pack decided to get a better look at the uninvited guest. He climbed down a sapling and began checking me out from a distance of about 3 feet. This allowed me to capture his face as he stared into the lens of my camera.
The other pack of lemurs was quite a find, as they are somewhat rare. Known as Decken’s Sifaka lemurs and only found in the Western dry forest, they are one of the larger varieties and are also prodigious leapers.
On my last night in Madagascar I made friends with a few lemurs. I’ve never had furry animals the size of cats leaping from trees onto my shoulders. Some put their little front paws around my neck like I was their good buddy. The earthy smell of their thick fur was like that of a dog, in a good way.
I was able to touch palms with one of the lemurs. His paws were heavily padded, rubbery, and cool to the touch. It was a moment I won’t soon forget, for I had just shaken hands with a lemur in its own habitat. My dream had come true.