Journey To Beauty & Chaos In Paradise Islands

Madagascar: Erotic Tombs, Tribal Warriors & Bull Fights In The Great Red Island



Tan Wee Cheng, Singapore  (July 2003)

The Indris Locals Chameleon
Chinese Presence In Eastern Madagascar Dried Fish

We spent a night in Tana and then visited Périnet Special Reserve of the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park.  We spent the afternoon walking around without seeing the one-meter tall indri with their incredibly white-and-black fur, the greatest of the lemur.  What a disappointment!  We returned the next morning and this time we found two families of five individuals each, each controlling a territory of about 15 hectares.  The indri is famous for their early morning haunting calls, audible 3 km away, which initially frightened early European visitors who thought the place might be haunted.   

After Périnet, we returned to Tana and visited the old Rova of Ambohimanga in the countryside.  This is an overpriced World Heritage Site (US$5 to enter), with an dilapidated and half-bare palace surrounded by a simple wall.  The larger and newer Rova of Tana has been burned down and all that remained is this one on the Blue Hill.


Then it’s back to Tana for two nights, before we flew to Mauritius and then Singapore.  Walking around Tana and seeing the mass poverty and pathetic state of affairs around me, I am reminded of the story of the indri, known to the Malagasy as Babakoto.  The Malagasy people believe that there were once a man named Koto and his son who left the village to collect honey but failed to return.  The villagers sent a search party which couldn’t find the two but found two indris looking at them from the trees.  The villagers rationalised that the two had probably turned into indris and hence called the indris Babakoto meaning “Papa Koto”.   

Due to the supposed human origins of the indri, eating the indri is a fady, or taboo.  For a long time, the fady had helped the indri to survive.  The indri used to be found all over the Highlands as well as the East Coast.  They say that one used to hear the cry of the indri from Toamasina to Tana.  Now the indri is seriously endangered, found in large numbers only in the Périnet Special Reserve. Population pressure, deforestation and loss of respect of old cultural and traditional norms have led to the destruction of Madagascar’s natural environment, caused erosion and threatens the country’s agricultural sector as well as long term development and sustainability.  Corruption and political instability have also made this country unattractive for foreign investment.  The fate of Madagascar is linked to that of the indri.  For how long will the indri continue to cry from the forests of Périnet? 




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