I and another SIT (study abroad program) student spent the month of November at Honko doing independent research projects as a culmination of our study abroad experience. Nick and I arrived at Honko by taxi-brousse, only knowing that it was a mangrove protecting NGO some odd kilometers north of Tulear. After making the brousse stop at the wrong spot just once, we got off at Ambondrolava, said bye to our fellow SIT student headed for Reef Doctor, and walked down the short road to Honko. Soon I had met all of the staff, volunteers and dogs of the Honko crew, and felt right at home.
The next day I started my fieldwork, going out into the mangroves and reed beds to get some basic vegetation data for my herpetological survey. As much as I loved wading around in the mud and constantly swatting the mosquitoes, I had soon decided I could get more done in my project by staying mostly on land. Over the next three weeks I did timed searches to inventory the reptile and amphibian species in four of the habitat types around Honko. With my observations and previous observations from Tess, we compiled a list of all 22 species and their distribution throughout the area. We found 15 species immediately around Honko, 3 frog species in the reeds and 10 reptile species in the two types of nearby spiny thicket. We found everything from geckos and skinks to chameleons, legless lizards and snakes, including 5 on the IUCN Endangered list.
My short stay at Honko was a great experience, seeing the workings of an NGO from the inside. I built connections by helping with English lessons, talking to local guides and of course playing soccer with the guys of Ambondrolava. I saw the mangrove monitoring team keeping tabs on the progress of mangrove restoration. I was there for the opening of the new women’s association building and saw the beginnings of other projects to help build school buildings in a nearby community. My time at Honko was fun and educational, and I look forward to seeing all of the great things that will happen through Honko in the future.