Funding has been granted to cover the next three years of Chester Zoo support of Madagascar’s Mangabe Protected Area.

The story of Madagascar’s environments and habitats in recent years has often been bleak. The island nation’s unique and invaluable biodiversity has suffered at the hands of unsustainable agricultural techniques and devastation of the landscape.

For the last decade, our partnership with the hugely dedicated Malagasy NGO, Madagasikara Voakajy, and the enthusiasm of Malagasy communities for the natural world that surrounds them has allowed fantastic opportunities to prevent extinction.

April 2015 saw the accumulation of years of hard work in the creation of the Mangabe-Ranomena-Sahasarotra (Mangabe) New Protected Area. Mangabe is a 27,346 hectare portion of protected land intended to save Malagasy endemic and threatened species from extinction, while providing ecological, social and economic benefits to the people who live there.

Director of Madagasikara Voakajy, Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka visited Chester Zoo in March to meet with our Field Programme Coordinator for Madagascar and the Mascarenes, Claire Raisin, as well as numerous other zoo staff, to discuss the newly approved three-year plan for conservation in Mangabe.

 

 

To achieve the goal of preventing extinction, we are supporting our partner in building capacities in local communities to manage and monitor the Mangabe protected area, understand the factors affecting key species and prevent these issues from causing destruction. Towards this goal, the next three years will see increased support for these local communities.

The greatest threat to the region – forest clearing for agriculture – is being reduced through providing ownership of the area to the local communities and facilitating their ability to manage it. We’re supporting elected community patrollers, members of the local communities who maintain an awareness of changes to the area and report any illegal activity to the relevant authorities with training, equipment and financial support.

 

Julie says,

After this three year long project, we hope to have strengthened the confidence between the local communities and Madagaskikara Voakajy, and to increase our knowledge and pride for Mangabe’s biodiversity!

With Madagasikara Voakajy we hope that by 2040 the local Malagasy communities are in full control of the sustainable management of the land within Mangabe’s borders, having been equipped with the full range of capacities and resources needed to do so.

 

With increased protective measures in place and growing, the coming years will involve an immense monitoring effort to evaluate the situation of the key species living in the area.

Golden mantella frog

There are numerous questions surrounding the future of this critically endangered frog; where are they? What is the situation where they exist? Where might they find a home in future?

 

This year 110 ponds have already been surveyed throughout the Mangabe area, investigating their suitability as a home for the golden mantella. Twenty-five new suitable ponds were identified, adding to the total 100 water bodies found in recent years. Five of these 25 were already home to the frogs, which were individually weighed and measured. However, many of the ponds in the survey were found damaged, with some entirely destroyed by gold mining or slash and burn agriculture. Understanding these factors and how they change over time is crucial to ensure their conservation. The next three years will continue this data collection.

Lemurs

The three year-plan will focus on tracking three key lemur species: Greater dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus major), Goodman’s mouse lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara) and Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Camera-trapping and field surveys combined with habitat assessment will aim to understand how population levels of each species are changing over the years. We will continue to support the amazing Youth for Lemurs’ conservation initiative.

Pronk’s day gecko

This highly elusive reptile spends the majority of its time tucked away in the cracks and crevices of tree surfaces and in the layers of decaying bark coating the forest floor. Due to its elusiveness, very little is understood about its ecology. The efforts will first attempt to identify the gecko’s activity patterns and subsequently assess its distribution and habitat usage.

Julie says,

Our vision is that Mangabe will become a community-managed reserve, generating benefits for people and protecting endemic species in a safe habitat.

With these excellent programmes in place, we hope that in three years’ time and for many years to come, the situation for both the people and the wildlife of the Mangabe New Protected Area and in Madagascar as a whole continues to get brighter and brighter.