At this time of year, many people think about giving to those in need. Now, there are a lot of good charities out there doing good work - but this year, I'd like to suggest one with a special connection to paleontology.
The Ankizy Fund (it's pronounced ann-KEE-zee) was founded by Dr. Dave Krause from the Department of Anatomical Sciences at Stony Brook University. Many of the readers of this blog know of the fantastic discoveries that Dave and his colleagues have made in the late Cretaceous Maevarano Formation of Madagascar - the buck-toothed Masiakasaurus, the pug-nosed, plant-eating crocodile Simosuchus, the bird-dinosaur link Rahonavis, the spectacularly preserved specimens of Majungasaurus, and many others. Few, however, are aware of the stark poverty that surrounds the rich exposures of Cretaceous rock. Literacy rates are near zero in many rural areas of Madagascar. Over 11,000 children die annually from malaria. Nationally, there are only 24 doctors and 2 dentists for every 100,000 people. The distended bellies you commonly see in children are not signs of overeating, but rather malnutrition and heavy parasite loads.
Faced with all of this in the midst of their field area, Krause and his colleagues knew they had to do something. So, the Ankizy Fund sprang into existence. "Ankizy" is the Malagasy word for "children" - those whom the efforts are focused on. Through dental clinics, basic care and instruction in oral hygiene are provided. Simply pulling an infected tooth can save a kid's life. Health clinics offer immunizations and basic check-ups. Wells offer a chance at clean water. And, schools provide the gift of education. Although the Ankizy Fund cannot solve all of the problems in Madagascar (and there are many), it has made a good start at several locations throughout the country.
I have had the good fortune to work in northwestern Madagascar on several expeditions, as well as the opportunity to see the fruits of the Ankizy Fund in action. It's a rare combination of paleontology and humanitarianism. . .and a truly wonderful one at that. Please, consider donating today. Any amount helps!
And now back to our regularly scheduled blogging. . .