The Sloth Lemur’s Song: Madagascar from the Deep Past to the Uncertain Present, Alison Richard
A moving account of Madagascar told by a researcher who has spent over fifty years investigating the mysteries of this remarkable island.
Madagascar is a place of change. A biodiversity hotspot and the fourth largest island on the planet, it has been home to a spectacular parade of animals, from giant flightless birds and giant tortoises on the ground to agile lemurs leaping through the treetops. Some species live on; many have vanished in the distant or recent past. Over vast stretches of time, Madagascar’s forests have expanded and contracted in response to shifting climates, and the hand of people is clear in changes during the last thousand years or so. Today, Madagascar is a microcosm of global trends. What happens there in the decades ahead can, perhaps, suggest ways to help turn the tide on the environmental crisis now sweeping the world.
The Sloth Lemur’s Song is a far-reaching account of Madagascar’s past and present, led by an expert guide who has immersed herself in research and conservation activities with village communities on the island for nearly fifty years. Alison Richard accompanies the reader on a journey through space and time—from Madagascar’s ancient origins as a landlocked region of Gondwana and its emergence as an island to the modern-day developments that make the survival of its array of plants and animals increasingly uncertain. Weaving together scientific evidence with Richard’s own experiences and exploring the power of stories to shape our understanding of events, this book captures the magic as well as the tensions that swirl around this island nation.
About the author
Professor Dame Alison Richard received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology at Cambridge University, and her doctorate from London University. In 1972, she joined the faculty of Yale University, where she became professor of anthropology in 1986, chairing the Department of Anthropology from 1986 to 1990, and later serving as director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, where she oversaw one of the most important university natural history collections in the USA. From 1994-2002, she served as Provost of Yale, with operational responsibility for the University’s financial and academic programs and planning. In 1998 she was named the Franklin Muzzy Crosby Professor of the Human Environment.
From 2003-2010, Professor Richard was Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, a position carrying the responsibilities of university president. During her tenure, she led several major changes in university policy, reorganised management of the University’s endowment, expanded Cambridge’s global partnerships, and launched and completed a billion pound fund-raising campaign. Her achievements received recognition in 2010, when she was awarded a DBE (Dame Commander of the British Empire) for her services to Higher Education.
As a researcher, Professor Richard is widely known for her work and writings on the evolution of complex social systems among primates. This work has taken her to Central America, Northern Pakistan and, in particular, to the forests of Madagascar. Professor Richard has been working in Madagascar since 1970, when she spent 18 months studying the socioecology of sifaka, Propithecus verreauxi, for her PhD. Since 1984, in collaboration with colleagues in Madagascar and the US, her research has focused on the demography and social behavior of the sifaka population at Bezà Mahafaly, Madagascar. In 1975, with colleagues from the University of Antananarivo and Washington University, she launched the Bezà Mahafaly partnership for conservation, research and training, and she has been deeply involved in that activity ever since.
Professor Richard is a trustee of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the Liz Claiborne & Art Ortenberg Foundation. She chairs the Advisory Board of the Cambridge Conservation Initiative and the Leadership Council of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and serves on the Advisory Board of Arcadia. She has received numerous honorary doctorates, and in 2005 she was appointed Officier de l’Ordre National in Madagascar.
With thanks to Synergy for their support.