19 January 2021

Harper’s magazine features Marmorkrebs in Madagscar

Harper's February 2021 cover
Rowan Moore Gerety has just published the best article ever written about Marmorkrebs.


“Stowaways” appears in the February 2021 issue of Harper’s magazine. It’s a feature-length examination of the invasion of Marmorkrebs on Madagascar. It was prompted by conversation with Julia Jones and was almost two years in the making.


There is some science, but the bulk of the article is a nuanced, detailed examination of the complexities of living with environmental change.


Over and over again, people are ambivalent to Marmorkrebs. People recognize the crayfish is a pest... but it’s a cheap meal. In a place where most people are living on the equivalant of a couple of US dollars a day, that matters.

In the hills above town, where rice cultivation depends on rainfall for irrigation, farmers complain that the levees of their terraced paddies spring leaks without warning, sparking arguments when valuable rainwater drains into their neighbors’ fields instead. Most realize that crayfish burrows are to blame, but suspicions linger all the same. “The tsi pe’peo is an enemy of agriculture,” Ramandrosoa told me. Nevertheless, he hesitated to advocate for its eradication. For families without even enough money to pay their children’s school fees, he said, “It’s kerosene, it’s sugar, it’s soap. It’s the basic necessities.” In the lean months, Ramandrosoa explained, “People collect crayfish so they don’t have to sell their rice.”

I also love the illustrations by Barry Falls. Look at this gem:

Illustration of marbled crayfish overlaying a map of Madagascar

I’ll forgive that the abdomen probably can’t bend quite that much.


I will probably be rereading this many times. It’s a rich and insightful part of a story that I know from the published literature, but this shows just how little of the story makes it into journal articles.


Highly recommended.

External links

Gerety RM. 2021. Stowaways. Harper’s 342(2049): 72-79. https://harpers.org/archive/2021/02/stowaways-crayfish-madagascar/

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