The Institute of Zoology at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover protects lemurs through on-the-ground research, capacity building, and captive management.
Supporting lemur conservation with long-term research programs and capacity building.
The Institute of Zoology in Hannover undertakes cutting edge research on lemurs both inside and outside Madagascar. One of their major aims is to increase understanding of how nocturnal lemurs have adapted and evolved in the in their respective environments.
In particular, the Institute studies the patterns, evolution, and consequences of differences between species in their behavior, bioacoustics, ecology, and susceptibility for diseases. Combining this knowledge with an understanding of how habitat needs and habitat fragmentation impact the genetic diversity of populations,it is possible to evaluate the changes for long-term survival of these populations.
The working group “Lemur conservation Biology” from the Institute of Zoology has worked in the Ankarafantsika National Park (135,000 ha park) since 1995 and in the Mariarano forest since 2003. The Ankarafantsika National Park comprises the largest remaining patch of continuous dry deciduous forest in northwestern Madagascar and is therefore of utmost importance for the preservation of the remaining biodiversity.
What lemurs does the Institute of Zoology protect?
In the Ankarafantsika National Park, the institute’s work impacts:
- Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli)
- Milne-Edwards sportive lemurs (Lepilemur edwardsi)
- Western woolly lemurs (Avahi occidentalis)
- Golden-brown mouse lemurs (Microcebus ravelobensis), described by the Institute in 1998
- Mongoose lemurs (Eulemur mongoz)
- Grey mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus)
- Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleus medius)
- Brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus)
The organizations undertakes several projects, described below.
Conservation biology and environmental flexibility of lemurs in the Ankarafantsika National Park and the Mariarano forest (Project code: LemCon2)
This long-term program, which has been ongoing since 2003, takes place in the Ankarafantsika National Park and the Mariarano forest. This mosaic of habitat types offers many different ecological niches for lemurs and other forest dwelling organisms. Knowledge of how lemurs survive in these different niches is still in its infancy, but urgently needed for conservation management. This project investigates the biology of these animals live in these habitat types, including their vulnerability towards diseases. This knowledge will help us understand the environmental flexibility of species, how events such as climate change affect lemurs’ life history and long-term survival, and provide data for the long-term conservation management of lemurs in northwestern Madagascar.
Effective lemur conservation in the Sofia Region (Project code: LemCon3)
Pending funding, this project will take place in the Anjiamangirana forest and the Marosely forest (northwestern Madagascar). Both areas are fairly fragmented but are important habitat for the many lemur species. The main threats to lemurs in these areas are hunting, charcoal production, and fires. Both areas give home to five to six lemur species, with mouse lemur and sportive lemur species differing between the sites. The species include:
- Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli)
- Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
- Danfoss’ mouse lemur (Microcebus danfossorum)
- Grewcock’s sportive lemur (Lepilemur grewcockorum)
- Fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius)
- Common brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus)
- Otto’s sportive lemur (Lepilemur otto)
- Bongolava mouse lemur (Microcebus bongolavensis)
- Gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus)
The Institute proposes to undertake five different actions to help protect these lemurs species at these sites:
- Facilitating existing local conservation projects;
- Long-term monitoring and research to
identify the needs of local communities and determine where they overlap with conservation needs, work with migrant communities, and promote animals who naturally reforest areas (e.g., bats, lemurs, birds);
- Undertake educational exchanges for two-way communication and knowledge transfer, and train locals in sustainable agricultural techniques;
- Mitigate habitat threats through fire prevention and control, promotion of alternative cooking fuels, and by supporting forest patrols.
- Long-term natural resource management and local development by implementing the Madagascar Bushmeat Strategy, building and maintaining tree nurseries, identifying optimal reforestation areas, and creating/supporting civil organizations that focus on environmental justice.
Phylogeography and conservation genetics of nocturnal lemurs (Project code: LemCon4)
Since 2000, this project aims to understand the population structure of different lemur species across their habitat ranges in view of how drastically anthropogenic disturbances have impacted forests.
Effective conservation requires detailed knowledge on how many individuals remain in the wild, the distribution of species, threats to their survival, and the degree to which individuals within a species differ (e.g., genetically). This project studies genetic differentiation in order to develop effective conservation measures and formulate long-term management plans.
In addition to their work in the field, the Institute of Zoology also leads the ex situ management of Goodman’s mouse lemur (Microcebus lehilahytsara), and keep one of only two breeding colonies worldwide for this species.
Partnering with local communities
Species and habitat conservation cannot be achieved without involving the local Malagasy community resulting in their active participation in decision-making processes. As a prerequisite, any conservation initiative must therefore aim to strengthen local knowledge and to raise responsibility for the unique biodiversity of Madagascar.
Since 1995, the Institute of Zoology has established a series of collaboration contracts with Malagasy authorities including the University of Antananarivo (Department of Zoology), the University of Mahajanga (Biology Department), and Madagascar National Parks (MNP). These are key to the long-term success of the programs and to build capacity in Madagascar for lemur conservation.
Specifically, the Institute aims to:
- jointly perform research projects and publish scientific results with Malagasy collaborators;
- improve access of Malagasy partners to scientific results from the international research community;
- provide institutional support for Malagasy universities and collaborators;
- increase scientific networking with Malagasy colleagues;
- support and mentor Malagasy students, postdocs, and researchers; and
- contribute to local capacity building of students and local field assistants.
Conservation Management of lemurs in the Ankarafantsika National Park (Project Code: LemCon1)
Pending funding, this program will take place in the Ankarafantsika National Park (northwestern Madagascar). Wildlife in the National Park is continuously threatened by bushfires, deforestation, the presence of cattle and human settlements in the forest, charcoal production, and hunting activities. There are, however, central park headquarters and 12 decentralized base camps that aim to limit use of the forest within park boundaries. However, this management system is not yet very effective and needs much improvement. In order to protect the unique and fragile forest mosaic habitats of the Ankarafantsika National Park and its threatened lemurs, a number of conservation actions need to be taken immediately in collaboration with Madagascar National Parks and the Park Administration:
- Survey work utilizing the existing forest wardens and additional, temporary base camps;
- Train park wardens/forest agents to undertake biodiversity assessments and data processing;
- Establish a long-term database and communication network for transmitting and continuously evaluating the monitoring activities at each base camp and across the park;
- Build a conservation education program to teachers so that they can better deliver conservation lessons to their students.
- Hold regular meetings with the leaders of all villages around the park, discussing the needs of the local human population, and updating people about ongoing and future conservation work in their areas. Educational materials such as booklets, poster, comics and T-shirts will be produced and distributed among villagers.