Over 20 Years of Saving Lemurs!
Madagascar is one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspots, full of plants and animals that exist nowhere else on earth. And sadly, they are at risk. The incredible biodiversity has been negatively impacted from habitat loss caused by deforestation, hunting and the pet-trade.
For the last 20 years, Dr. Edward E. Louis Jr., DVM PhD, Director of the Conservation Genetics Department at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium (OHDZA) has actively been involved in conserving what is left of Madagascar.
After years of surveying the island’s stunning biodiversity, Dr. Louis’ work began to shift as he wanted to use his research in finding solutions to these continual problems. So, in 2010, he created a community-based conservation program, working directly with the communities in solving these problems, calling it the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP.)
The MBP is a Malagasy NGO and an extension of the OHDZA’s conservation efforts and is led by Dr. Louis. The MBP focuses on community engagement in its conservation and research efforts and relies on cross-cultural collaboration between MBP’s staff of more than 100 people in Madagascar who work closely with OHDZA’s Conservation Genetics Department in Omaha, NE. Dr. Louis spends at least 6 months each year in Madagascar. From working at the MBP office (based in Antananarivo), or any of the four field sites, and on research expeditions, he seems to have his hands full.
The MBP’s habitat and animal research has helped wildlife agencies and organizations maximize the impact of their conservation efforts to manage or protect the environment. The research has also led to the discovery of 24 new lemur species.
Now there are close to 150 full-time employees in Madagascar. There is also a program with more than 20 active graduate students who conduct field work for their Master’s or Doctorate degrees.
Working with the community is important because power is in the hands of the people. Change can only happen when people are involved. Community education includes teaching the local people why they shouldn’t burn down the forests, how they can conserve the forests, and how to use other tools to survive with lemurs. Locals who hunt in Madagascar often don’t want to hurt wildlife – they just want to survive.
New laws were even set in place to protect Madagascar’s remaining land. Now, anyone caught burning within a protected area will either be fined $620,000 or jailed for 25 years. With that being said, the MBP felt it was important to notify the people of this mandate as the government did not publicize the change. So the team created a “No-Tavy” (No Burning) outreach campaign, traveling around to different villages raising awareness and informing the people of these changes. Local managers drive protection so enforcement partially depends on how supportive the local administrator is towards conservation.
At its main field station, Kianjavato Ahmanson Field Station (KAFS), the MBP is providing an opportunity to more than 3,000 people in different villages to participate in reforestation while providing a supplemental income to more than 100 single mothers. The MBP even offers daily labor jobs, which usually gets a lineup of people wanting to work each day. Additionally, the team has set up ecotourism opportunities at KAFS, another income generator for the community.
I am a fan of translocation, and according to OHDZA’s Conservation Genetics Department, translocation works when it’s done right. The team has moved 2 species, the black-and-white ruffed lemur and diadema sifaka, from threatened areas to a special reserve. Getting them out was a story of success. But two years ago the team revisited the area to get more lemurs to ensure a healthy and diverse translocated population, and the forest was gone. It was amazing (shocking?) to see how quickly the landscape can change.
To translocate, the team radio collars the lemurs and finds where the family units are and their size. After completing a biomedical workup, they move families to maintain social cohesion.
Animals are better protected in the safe area more than anywhere else. After a translocation, the animals need to be followed for 10 years. There is a video on Facebook of some very rare footage of two male Diademed sifakas eating and scavenging for seeds on the forest floor in Andasibe. These two lemurs are offspring to the original 26 Diademed sifakas that were part of the MBP’s Reintroduction/Translocation Project in 2006.
Since the relocation took place back in 2006, there have been at least 3 generations born from the original 26. Here’s another video – this one is of a family of 3 Diademed sifaka which are seen by thousands of eco tourists each year!
And this video beautifully captures a relocation that took place last November, where the MBP worked closely with the Time + Tide Foundation in the translocation of 5 Crowned Lemurs, 4 adults, and 1 baby. All were successfully relocated from the Bekaraoka Forest to the Nosy Ankao Island. I love this video because it shows how translocation is done.
I asked how we could help. The answer was …..
Spread the Word on the important roles these communities can have in achieving sustainability and protecting wildlife
Become Aware of what you buy and where it comes from. Items like rosewood are illegally harvested in Madagascar and in turn sold for a profit, at the expense of the wildlife’s habitat.
Get informed and follow their work!
Check out their blog here
Donate either your time or money…
Monetary donations can be accepted at https://donate.omahazoofoundation.org/ (make sure to select the MBP’s dropdown)
To give your time, you can participate in their volunteer program where you get to monitor lemurs and participate in their reforestation efforts. The program spans 12-weeks, with 5-weeks monitoring lemurs and 5-weeks on reforestation (with one week of training for each)
The program has people from all over the world participate-just last year they had 29 volunteers from 12 different countries!