There is a legend in Andasibe of a young boy, Koto, who had climbed a tree in search of honey. When he tried to get the honey, however, he had angered the bees and he was stung repeatedly. In pain and scared, Koto was unable to climb down from the tree and had forgotten how. An indri found the boy trapped and afraid in the branches, and carried the boy safely down to the ground where he could then return home. The boy remembered the indri, and villagers knew that it saved the boy, and from then on had named the indri Babakoto, which means Father of Koto.
The indri is the largest of Madagascar’s lemurs. Resembling a 4 year old in costume as the furry halfway point between a panda and a monkey, the indri live in the canopy of the rainforest at Andasibe.
Excessive hunting had critically endangered the population, but fortunately, the Malagasy government recognized the peril the indri faced and began intensive conservation efforts to protect and promote the population.
The indri, however, did not respond to captive breeding programs like other lemurs and had instead stopped eating and would simply die in captivity. Thankfully, the caregivers recognized this and, in conjunction with other conservation projects, the indri’s natural home is now under protection in Parc National d’Andasibe.
This park and the surrounding parks and rainforest is the only place on earth where indris can be found. Within this small region, seven family groups inhabit the canopy, filling it with their distinct, musical calls.
A phrase you see often is “the voices have returned to the forests”, and this refers to the indris’ calls which can be heard from before sunrise into late dusk.
Even among the abundant other splendours and rare specimens in the Andasibe area parks, to hear the calls of the indri is an excuse all its own to visit the rainforest in easten Madagascar, and to support the efforts to protect these remarkably unique animals.