Welcome to Berenty Reserve, a private wildlife reserve in Southern Madagascar. It has been the focus of scientific research on lemurs for over 40 years. It is also one of Madagascar's premier tourist destinations. Most television programs about Madagascar show Berenty's ringtailed lemur troops sauntering with tails in the air, and Berenty's white sifaka dancing over the ground or riccocheting between thorn-studded trees.
The de Heaulme family, owners of Berenty Estate, founded a sisal plantation in 1936 beside the Mandrare river in agreement with local clans of the Tandroy tribe. There they conserved 1000 ha of natural forests maintained as reserves to the present. The largest fragment, the 200 ha Berenty Reserve proper, includes closed canopy gallery forest of ancient tamarind trees, drier open scrub, and the surreal "spiny forest" of southern Madagascar. It is home to six species of lemur, the south's largest colony of Madagascar fruit bats, and 103 bird species, 56 of whom breed in the reserve.
Diverse cultures and societies intersect at Berenty. There are scientists and their students of many nations, tourists, TV crews, Tandroy employees in sisal and tourism, and different forms of lemur society. The gallery forest was formed between the present Mandrare River and one of its ancient arms: rich, well watered soil in a dry land. It holds extremely dense natural lemur populations with several hundred of each species per square kilometer. At the "Tourist Front" even denser populations feed on introduced trees and tourist food. The gradient from human-enriched to wet to dry means that startlingly different habitats are juxtaposed, offering many opportunitites for research.