Dec 10/Jan 11 – What a Wonderful World

Madagascar Sandgrouse

Madagascar Sandgrouse

It seems like no time since I got back from Madagascar. On one level it’s been like stepping from a blast furnace into the deep freeze. Day time temperatures in South East Madagascar were approaching 40 degrees Celsius whilst back here in middle England it’s been very close to double figures below. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s been something of a physical shock – but nothing compared to the emotional shock that seeing the ‘vanilla island’ in person has given me.

I saw so much beauty, so much that was amazing. For example, I heard the Indri deep in their pristine forest homes. The Indri is the largest lemur in the world and its haunting calls echo round the forests for miles. They sound rather like the contact calls of whales as they cruise the oceans. Each time they wail it’s both a surprise and a shock and somehow they unearth an almost primeval sense of joy and sorrow at the same time.

Then again, I had the amazing experience of seeing Madagascar Sandgrouse coming down to drink at a tiny pool in the arid Southwest of the island. A little like a partridge these strong flying birds almost always come down to drink at the same time. Our guide Callen Cohen had us in position right on schedule, but there was nothing to see – not least because it looked as if there was no water left.

And then Callen heard them and told us that they were coming. I couldn’t hear or see a thing until suddenly they were over our heads and landed just a few yards from where the water had been. They made no attempt to come in to drink (even though there was a trickle left) and after a few minutes we thought our presence had spooked them so we retreated.

In the same instant the two male birds both took flight and Callen took some aerial photos as they fled. Later at the airport he downloaded the pictures to his MacBook and tinkered with the focus. “They’d already drunk!” he said “just look at how wet the feathers on their chest and belly are.”

I could see the evidence before me and remembered that sandgrouse have special feathers that are able to absorb water like blotting paper. It enables them to take vital liquid back to their nest deep in waterless tracts of land to a thirsty mate and young who will drink the water rather like puppies suckling.

Even as I recollect these experiences now, I find them awesome. What a ‘Wonderful World’ we live in, full of surprise, full of opportunity, full of challenge and our business life is just like that too. I wish you a Happy Christmas for sure, but perhaps even more important I wish you an amazing 2011 – whatever the world throws at us.

James Holden
Managing Director