The Soroczynski’s journey through Madagascar

THANKS FOR THE TALK: Trevor Langley, U3A chairman, right, presented this month’s speaker, Michael Soroczynski, with a token of the club’s appreciation for his talk on Madagascar at the first meeting of 2019 Picture: ROB KNOWLES

The first U3A meeting of the year took place as usual at the Don Powis Hall at Settlers Park last Thursday where Michael Soroczynski described his trip through the island of Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world.

Before he began his talk U3A speaker-seeker, Dr Glenda Hicks, introduced Soroczynski explaining that he is a Scotsman of Polish ancestry who, since a young boy, has been captivated by the natural world and the David Attenborough documentaries on Madagascar.

Soroczynski married his wife, Sue, in Scotland where he worked as a mine engineer.

“I was fascinated when I saw the creatures in Madagascar and it was on my bucket list to get there,” said Soroczynski. “So we travelled to the island [in August 2017] and toured.”

Soroczynski first showed a map of Gondwanaland, over 170 million years ago, when Madagascar was still attached to Africa and Antarctica and South America were still one large landmass. Today Madagascar is independently situated off the west coast of Africa.

He then showed a map of the island and the route he and his wife had taken with a guide who drove them to some of the more remote areas. As Soroczynski said, “you think our roads are bad. There are roads in Madagascar that I wouldn’t drive on.”

Through a series of photographs Soroczynski described some of the animals he had seen, some unique to the island.

There were lots of insects, spiders and moths, but his photographs generally focussed on the insect predators such as the chameleons of which there are many varieties including the Parson’s chameleon, the carpet, the Brooke’s and the Pinocchio chameleon, to name a few. There are also a number of frog species on the island including the tomato frog, the spearnose frog and many more, and Soroczynski and his wife took many pictures along their journey.

Aside from insects and reptiles there are a great number of mammals on the island including a variety of lemurs, from the ruffed lemurs to the unique Verreaux’s sifaka.

At the west coast of the island the Soroczynski took a boat ride and there encountered humpback whales and a pod of dolphins that swam close to his boat.

Soroczynski apologised for the dark nature of his photographs as, he said, he got to the island in the rainy season and it rained or was overcast throughout most of the trip. However, although not taken in brilliant sunshine some of the photographs were very clear and gave the full house of attendees a much better understanding of the island and it fauna.

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