From Publishers Weekly
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 (Lucys 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 doesnt obliterate the regions 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 doesnt 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.
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From Scientific American
Jolly, a pioneer in the study of primate behavior, first went to Madagascar to observe lemurs 40 years ago. Her research site was at Berenty, a private wildlife refuge that was part of the plantation of an aristocratic French family. The de Heaulmes had come to Berenty in 1928. As they developed their plantation over the years, they also set aside a large area of it for lemurs and other animals and helped the native Tandroy tribe preserve their traditions. At the beginning of the 21st century, Berenty and its lemurs still flourish because the de Heaulme family are still there--and vice versa. "Forest and family saved each other," Jolly says. The plantation no longer produces sisal commercially; together with the preserved forest and its lemurs, it has become a destination for eco-tourists. Woven around the life of the de Heaulme family is the entire history of Madagascar--its geology, its animals and its colonization by humans, beginning with Indonesians and Africans in around A.D. 500. It is an unexpectedly enthralling story, told with great flair.
Editors of Scientific American