Cover image for Lords and lemurs : mad scientists, kings with spears, and the survival of diversity in Madagascar
Lords and lemurs : mad scientists, kings with spears, and the survival of diversity in Madagascar
Jolly, Alison.
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Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
Physical Description:
vi, 310 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), map ; 24 cm
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QL737.P95 J65 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In the extreme south of Madagascar is a place called Berenty, where Tandroy tribesmen, French lords, mad scientists, and two or three species of lemurs may be found gathered peacefully under a tamarind tree. Forty years ago Alison Jolly went to Berenty to study lemurs, and she has been enthralled by it ever since. In Lords and Lemurs she tells the story of the place, its people, and its other animals.
The owner of Berenty, Jean de Heaulme, arrived there in 1928 as a six-month-old baby, riding with his mother in the sidecar of his father's Harley-Davidson motorcycle. The de Heaulme family has lived at Berenty ever since, supporting Madagascar's fight for independence from France, serving in the government, and enduring economic turmoil, civil war, and even imprisonment. Although they are relics of a colonial system that seized land and tortured dissidents, the de Heaulmes also epitomizenoblesse oblige in the best sense of the phrase, showing a remarkable sense of responsibility for both the people and the ecosystem of Berenty. Early on they set aside a large portion of their estate as a nature preserve, where lemurs and other animals have thrived over the years. Jean de Heaulme became a blood brother to one of the local Tandroy nobles -- the kings with spears. Traditionally the Tandroy were warriors who raided for women, cattle, and slaves. Now those who live at Berenty can take what they need from the modern world -- medical care, education, and a cash income -- without giving up their own customs and way of life. Many Tandroy still live in traditional villages surrounded by walls of thorn, and even the men who hold salaried jobs work hard so they can return to their clan with enough cattle to buy a bride or two. When a clan elder dies, the family offers a grandiose funeral where, amid gunfire and dancing and merrymaking and sex, a whole herd of zebu cattle is sacrificed to honor the new Ancestor -- even if he happens to be a Christian. Alison Jolly and her husband were honored to be invited to attend a Tandroy funeral.
Poignant and colorful, tragic and funny, Lords and Lemurs is a remarkable tale of one of the last great places on earth and the extraordinary people who live there, a tale of marriage, birth, and death, of spear fights and stink fights and dancing. It shows how human warmth and dignity can reach out beyond any social system.

Author Notes

Alison Jolly, a pioneer in the study of primate behavior and the evolution of social intelligence, has taught at Princeton and is currently at the University of Sussex, England

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Madagascar, one of the world's poorest countries, became a political pawn during World War II, and since then has fought famine, a battle for independence, and, most recently, a civil war over a disputed presidential election. At the island's extreme southern end is Berenty, a private wildlife refuge founded by French aristocrats and home to an uncommon and inspiring coexistence of Western culture, nature, and native traditions. Jolly first came to Berenty as a 25-year-old with a brand-new Ph.D and a Sputnik-era research grant to study lemurs, and upon her arrival met the site's owner, Jean de Heaulme, a sisal farmer. Unlike other colonialists, the de Heaulmes recognized the importance of their surrounding environment and its history, and they forged a strong bond with the Tandroy, local tribespeople who still lived in traditional villages surrounded by thorn walls. The de Heaulmes, in fact, supported the move for independence from the French, and when Jean de Heaulme was jailed, the Tandroy marched on the prison, demanding his release. Jolly tells the story of Berenty with wit and surprise. --Andy Boynton Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This quirky and engaging history cum memoir explores the issue of sustainable development in a microcosm called Berenty, a private nature preserve in southern Madagascar surrounded by plantations and many desperately poor people. Primatologist Jolly (Lucy?s Legacy) has spent much of her life studying the lemur population of Berenty, but she is also a keen observer of the life and culture of the Tandroy people who live nearby. The respectful coexistence of monkeys and men is due, she feels, to the leadership of the de Heaulme family, a French colonial dynasty who preserved a patch of pristine forest when they carved out their plantations. Through their story, Jolly surveys the history of Madagascar from the 17th-century arrival of the French through the harsh colonial regime, the 1947 War of Independence and the famines and political upheavals of recent decades. The de Heaulmes emerge as exemplary seigneurs, exercising a protective stewardship over land and people while fostering long-term economic development that doesn?t obliterate the region?s cultural or ecological legacy. Indeed, as they reorient the family business from commercial agriculture to 21st-century ecotourism, they represent to Jolly a kind of feudal third way between what she sees as the stagnation and corruption of socialism and the rapaciousness of global capitalism. Jolly can seem a tad starry-eyed about the de Heaulmes, who are personal friends, and doesn?t explain how their brand of benevolent paternalism could be institutionalized. But her vivid storytelling and perceptive insights into the natural and social worlds of Berenty make the tension between economic growth and environmental preservation come alive in human terms. Photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.



1 Lemurs Just Behind Their HousesMadagascar is sometimes called the Island at the End of the Earth. Even within Madagascar there is an especially far-off place, the extreme south: extreme in its distance, extreme in its parching climate, extreme in the violent reputation of its people. If ever you visit Madagascar, you may well come here. Among its spiny deserts lies a nature reserve called Berenty - a tiny place, but in its own way a microcosm of the world. At Berenty, tourists in Tilley hats and Gucci knapsacks stay side by side with people who are well off if they own a second shirt. The tourists do not even need to lock their bungalow doors. They had better shut the windows, though, or they may find a troop of ringtailed lemurs inside foraging for Coke and bananas. If twenty lemurs promenade toward your living room television screen, and the sunlight haloes black-and-white ringed tails like swaying upraised question marks, that is Berenty. If you see a group of white sifaka leap between trees in aerial ballet or bounce over the ground with flailing arms, that is Berenty. In fact, it is likely to be Berentys parking lot, while the cameraman ties himself in knots to frame out the human side of the story. Most visitors to Berenty spend a fascinated hour in the Museum of Androy. They stand on tiptoe to stare into the roof of a tiny house that once belonged to a woman of the Tandroy tribe, the People of the Thorns. They gawk at photos of a chieftains funeral. They sometimes giggle at sacred talismans made of cows horns and crocodile teeth. Meanwhile, in villages not five miles away, people live in just such houses, conjure with just such talismans. When a clan elder dies, zebu cattle stampede through the village amid gunfire and dancing and merrymaking and sex, all the way to the grand climax, when young men spear a whole herd of zebu to send their ancestor fittingly into the afterlife. I do know a lot about ringtailed lemurs. As for people, all I can tell you is what they chose to tell me. Many of the tales told here come from single witnesses: stories, not history. The stories pass through slavery and colonialism, nationalism, socialism, and the neocolonialism of the World Bank. I make few judgments about these isms, except to quote Dr. Roland Ramahatra as he stood at his fathers bedside: "Manichean divisions into good against bad are simply wrong." Berentys real history is childbirth and marriage and bitter imprisonment. There are spear fights and stink fights and tombs adorned with the skulls of sacrificed cattle. You meet He-Who-Cannot- Be-Thrown-to-Earth and He-Who-Never-Suckled, Robin the English slave boy, Alison the American, and Hanta with her degree from Moscow. And, of course, Frightful Fan and Cream Puff. Above all you meet a family tenacious in luxury and in disaster: the Lords of the Helm, feudal leaders who keep their pact with the Tandroy in a globalizing world.The first time I saw Berenty, everyon Excerpted from Lords and Lemurs: Mad Scientists, Kings with Spears, and the Survival of Diversity in Madagascar by Alison Jolly All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
A Note on Malagasy Namesp. viii
Map of Madagascarp. x
1. Lemurs Just Behind Their Housesp. 1
2. Meow! Sifaka! Pig-Grunt-Grunt-Grunt-Grunt: Lemurs and Lemur-watchers, 90,000,000 B.C. to 2000 A.D.p. 9
3. He Wanted the Whole Forest! The de Heaulmes and the Tandroy, 1660-1940p. 36
4. I Licked His Feet Very Heartily: The Tandroy and Their English Slave, 1703-1717p. 72
5. I Begged My Grandmother to Tell the Governor-General: Famine, War, and Revolution, 1940-1948p. 97
6. Me? I'm a Lathe Operator: The Golden Fibers, 1948-1960p. 127
7. A Very Cheap Wife: Chantal and Fenistina and Me, 1963-1975p. 154
8. If We Hear They Hurt You, We Will Come Back with Our Spears: Malagasy Socialism, 1971-1979p. 176
9. Our Country Is Committing Suicide: Debt, Conservation, and the Bank, 1980-1992p. 196
10. SOS: Save Our South! Famine, 1991-1992p. 222
11. Here the Children Inherit: Berenty, 2000p. 234
12. "This Is Anything But Idiot. This Is Whole" Funeral at the Lucky Baobab, 2000p. 254
Epilogue: 2002, 2003p. 268
Appendix Scientists Who Have Worked at Berentyp. 279
Notesp. 281
Indexp. 299