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Staff Profile - Sanne Govaert

Name: Sanne A.Govaert                                                                                 

Where are you from? Belgium                                  

Position: Assistant Research Officer (Forest)                         

Duration: 2 months out of 6

Interesting fact about yourself?

At camp they call me the “bug-lady” because I love insects. I must admit I like that nickname...

What were you doing before you came to Madagascar? What was your job/occupation?

I was doing an internship for Rewilding Europe about a natural grazing project at the Lika plains, Croatia. Rewilding Europe released free ranging old breeds of cattle (with huge bulls) and horses (such as Konikhorses), and we studied their effects on the environment. For example, we found footprints of wolf and lynx, and we found evidence that they feed on these semi-wild herbivores. It was amazing to be part of a project that makes Europe wilder.

Why did you choose Madagascar?

I was always attracted to high-biodiversity regions. I applied for the same position in Madagascar and Costa Rica. When I was asked during my job interview what my preference was, I answered Madagascar because the Frontier project in Madagascar had butterfly research while the one in Costa Rica hadn’t.

Why are you here? What is your aim? What are you hoping to achieve?

I want to gain experience as a biologist in an adventurous way. My aim is to publish a peer-reviewed paper about relevant invertebrate research in Madagascar. Also, I hope to grow as a person, both in a personal as well as a professional way.


Your favourite moment here/most memorable moment? Best memory? Best story/day?

I went to a meeting in Tana to contribute to set up the Insects and People of the South-Indian Ocean (IPSIO) network. After finishing the three days full of workshops, we went with the majority of the group (all entomologists) to Anjozorobe National Park. It was so amazing to do a forest walk with like-minded people (=all interested in invertebrates) with so many knowledge. We couldn’t walk for a meter of somebody would spot a super interesting insect. For example, we saw a huge wasp killing a tarantula, and moving it with high speed to another place, so the wasp can lay its eggs on top of the tarantula and the larvae can feed of the fresh meat of the tarantula, which is still alive but only paralyzed.

Any scary/crazy experiences? What got your heart racing?

I often wake up in the middle of the night because a coconut fell on my hut. The first times I would almost jump up because I was so taken by the surprise, but now I am getting used to it.

If you could have three things from home, what would they be? What do you miss?

-          Belgian beers for sure

-          My laptop with software to process the huge  amount of photos I am taking here

-          Couple dancing events

If you could take 3 things from Madagascar back home with you, what would they be?

-          Malagasy wildlife

-          The feeling of living in paradise: a beach with mangroves and palm trees

-          The overall lack of stress in the way problematic situations are handled in Madagascar

Best wildlife experience?

My first nigh walk was amazing. We were not in the forest yet and we saw our first male panther chameleon. While being amazed by the bright colours of the male in breeding season, Anette noticed a small, special snake in the tree behind us: the elusive Langaha madagascariencies (leaf-nose snake)! Not long after that we saw a couple of mouse lemurs from very close by. We were so excited that all this stuff was happening in such a short amount of time. I didn’t bring my camera on that walk and I still regret I couldn’t take a picture of the Langaha. Since then I always take my camera on each walk.


What will you take away with you? What have you learnt?

I have definitely become more patient. When you live together with a group of people very closely on each other, patience is a valuable trait. Also, Malagasy time is not known to be punctual, so being patient and in generally being chill makes living here much more pleasant.

Describe your time here in one word (got to have a bit of cheese)


By Amy Wright – Madagascar Field Communications Officer

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