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Institute of Zoology, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (TiHo)

University of Hanover

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.

Eulemur fulvus, Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: E. Zimmermann)

Eulemur fulvus, Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: E. Zimmermann)

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)

Microcebus ravelobensis, Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: E. Zimmermann)

Microcebus ravelobensis, Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: E. Zimmermann)

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)
Lepilemur edwardsi, Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: E. Zimmermann)

Lepilemur edwardsi, Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: E. Zimmermann)

The Institute proposes to undertake five different actions to help protect these lemurs species at these sites:

  1. Facilitating existing local conservation projects;
  2. 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);
  3. Undertake educational exchanges for two-way communication and knowledge transfer, and train locals in sustainable agricultural techniques;
  4. Mitigate habitat threats through fire prevention and control, promotion of alternative cooking fuels, and by supporting forest patrols.
  5. 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.

Captive Management

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

Land use and forest corridors at the border of Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: U. Radespiel)

Land use and forest corridors at the border of Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: U. Radespiel)

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:

  1. jointly perform research projects and publish scientific results with Malagasy collaborators;
  2. improve access of Malagasy partners to scientific results from the international research community;
  3. provide institutional support for Malagasy universities and collaborators;
  4. increase scientific networking with Malagasy colleagues;
  5. support and mentor Malagasy students, postdocs, and researchers; and
  6. contribute to local capacity building of students and local field assistants.

Conservation Management of lemurs in the Ankarafantsika National Park (Project Code: LemCon1)

Village at southern border of Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: U. Radespiel)

Village at southern border of Ankarafantsika National Park (photo: U. Radespiel)

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:

  1. Survey work utilizing the existing forest wardens and additional, temporary base camps;
  2. Train park wardens/forest agents to undertake biodiversity assessments and data processing;
  3. Establish a long-term database and communication network for transmitting and continuously evaluating the monitoring activities at each base camp and across the park;
  4. Build a conservation education program to teachers so that they can better deliver conservation lessons to their students.
  5. 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.
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Planet Madagascar

Building sustainable forest communities.

Supporting lemur conservation in northwest Madagascar through focused outreach and education programming.

Planet MadagascarPlanet Madagascar undertakes lemur conservation efforts in and around the Ankarafantsika National Park, in northwestern Madagascar. They primarily work in three communities consisting of 488 people (2014): Ambarindahy (316 people), Maevatanimbary (65 people), and Andranohobaka (107 people).

The organization very purposefully implements one project at a time, at a relatively small scale, so that they can work with the three communities on an ongoing basis. Over the next few years, Planet Madagascar will focus on conservation education, fire management, and community livelihoods programs.

In the future, they plans to grow as funding allows, and eventually expand outside of the three communities. They work hard to seek funding through grants and private donations.

What lemurs does Planet Madagascar protect?

Planet Madagascar’s work in and around the Ankarafantsika National Park in northwestern Madagascar currently impacts the following lemur species:

  • Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli)
  • Western woolly lemur (Avahi occidentalis)
  • Mongoose lemur (Eulemur mongoz)
  • Common brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus)
  • Gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus)
  • Golden-brown mouse lemur (Microcebus ravelobensis)
  • Milne-Edward’s sportive lemur (Lepilemur edwardsi)
  • Fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius)

How is Planet Madagascar protecting habitat for lemur conservation?

Fire Management

Planet Madagascar staff.

Planet Madagascar staff.

Over the coming years, Planet Madagascar will work with local community members, including national park staff, to find and implement realistic solutions to bush fires, one of the major threats affecting lemurs in the park. Local residents burn grasses near forest to improve grazing zones for cattle, but fires also accidentally burn forest.

Planet Madagascar will work with the community to implement a fire management strategy while contributing to improving the livelihood of people living in the communities. This strategy will provide employment for local residents and also mitigate fire risk for lemurs and their habitat.

Forest reforestation

We work to cultivate and plant new trees in Ankarafantsika National Park. We focus on two types of restoration, restoring fragmented landscapes to create corridors that connect existing fragments to continuous forest and erosion control through forest restoration where we plant trees to reduce the impact of erosion. We hire and train local community members to work with our on-the-ground Planet Madagascar staff members to identify target plant species, collect seeds, build and manage tree nurseries, and plant seedlings. Community members benefit through a salary-based program, thereby providing them with much-needed revenue and by receiving the direct benefits of erosion control through forest restoration.

Partnering with local communities

Planet MadagascarLocal people are involved at all stages of Planet Madagascar’s projects, as one of the goals of the organization is to develop capacity in Madagascar. Before implementing any project, Planet Madagascar holds stakeholder meetings with community members to facilitate open discussion about the challenges faced by conservation efforts, and to brainstorm collaborative solutions and action plans. Then, while programs are being implemented, they ensure that relevant members of the community are trained to manage and continue the programs. Finally, Planet Madagascar always endeavors to provide local communities with the tools they need to continue the work and educate themselves about the importance of the conservation projects.

Community Livelihoods

In September 2014, Planet Madagascar completed a livelihoods survey, speaking with 213 community members in their three target communities. Preliminary results revealed that over 70% of the people did not have knowledge of the different lemur species in their region, and few people were aware of the benefits that lemurs provide to forest ecosystems. For example, in one village, only 8% of people were aware that lemurs disperse seeds. We found that people’s livelihoods depend on the national park and its resources. For example approximately 70% of the respondents stated that their livelihoods depend mostly from the park for food, water, and economic activities.

These results underline the importance of implementing education and development programs in these communities and will serve as a baseline dataset that allows Planet Madagascar to measure the impact of their future projects and education initiatives, detailed below, on local knowledge and attitudes.

Conservation Education: Lambas for Lemurs

Planet MadagascarPlanet Madagascar’s first conservation education project, Lambas for Lemurs, was funded by Primate Conservation, Inc. and the Rufford Foundation and began in April 2015. Our goal is to raise awareness about lemurs, including:

  • why they are so unique,
  • their role in the survival of the whole ecosystem,
  • why lemur survival is linked to the survival of humans in the area, and
  • to foster a sense of pride in local communities for the lemurs of the region.

To implement this program, Planet Madagascar created an education toolkit that consists of guidelines and activities for adult leader training sessions, children’s educational programming, and adult educational programming. To reinforce the conservation message, we printed lambas, local clothes similar to a sarong, and gave them to some participants. Lambas are traditionally a culturally relevant medium of knowledge transfer. On each lamba we printed a scene depicting lemurs living in forest alongside people, and a message that states in the local dialect of Malagasy that “a healthy forest has lemurs.”

Educational Documentary

Planet MadagascarAlong with renowned wildlife filmmaker, Chris Scarffe, Planet Madagascar has gathered footage that will be used to produce an educational documentary, aimed at a Malagasy audience. This film will highlight issues related to human-wildlife interactions in Madagascar and will illustrate why a healthy ecosystem is beneficial to both humans and nature. Ankarafantsika National Park will be used as case study in the film. This film will facilitate dialogue in the local communities in a way that helps people understand how their actions have direct impacts on the surrounding wildlife and ultimately on their own livelihoods.

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Eden Reforestation Projects

Eden Reforestation Projects logo.Eden Reforestation Projects saves lemurs by planting millions — literally millions — of trees in Madagascar.

Saving lemurs through habitat protection and employment opportunities

Eden Reforestation Projects’ mission is to alleviate extreme poverty through environmental stewardship. Every year Eden Reforestation Projects employs thousands of villagers in Madagascar, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Nepal to plant millions of native tree species resulting in the alleviation of extreme poverty and the restoration of healthy forest systems.

Eden Reforestation Projects has been working in Madagascar since 2007, and their efforts have resulted in the planting of over 77 million dry deciduous and mangrove trees in Madagascar alone. Eden Reforestation Projects is the largest reforestation group in Madagascar, and they aim to plant billions – yes billions – of trees in Madagascar in the next decade.

 

How is Eden Reforestation Projects protecting habitat for lemur conservation?

common brown lemur

A common brown lemur.

Habitat destruction is perhaps the largest threat facing lemurs in Madagascar; some studies estimate that over 80% of vegetation in the country has been degraded or destroyed. However, thanks to Eden Reforestation Projects, 77 million trees were planted across Madagascar between 2007 and 2014. Moving forward, the organization is focusing its reforestation efforts in Madagascar around eight western Malagasy villages. In addition, they partner with one national park (Ankarafantsika), one university (Mahajanga), and one hotel resort with a private forest reserve (Antsanitia).

Mangroves

Eden Reforestation Projects has been working to rehabilitate mangrove estuaries in Madagascar since 2007. These habitats are critical to overall ecosystem health and also provide habitat for several mouse lemur species. In addition, healthy mangrove forests become green pathways for larger lemur species to cross from one patch of dry deciduous forest to another. Thousands of hectares of mangrove forests are now restored, and one large estuary (Mahabana) is nearing completion after the planting of tens of millions of mangrove propagules.

Dry Deciduous Reforestation Projects

IMG_6940In 2012, Eden expanded their work to include dry deciduous forest species. The overwhelming majority of the tree species grown are endemic to Madagascar’s western regions and virtually all of the species grown are native and essential to the well being of the lemur species that inhabit the dry deciduous forests. Their most notable lemur habitat partner is Ankarafantsika National Park; the organization has a full nursery operating within the confines of the National Park with plans to greatly expand operations in the years to come. They also partner with the Antsanitia Resort where they currently operate their largest nursery and project sites. Hundreds of hectares have already been planted and/or protected and the survival rate of saplings is high.

The Hands in the Dirt Training Center

Eden’s systems approach to restoration and protection efforts begin with their nursery and reforestation leadership training center that they affectionately call “The Hands in the Dirt Training Center” (HDTC) located in Mahajanga. The HDTC, as the name implies, emphasizes practical training so that their reforestation managers gain valuable hands-on experience in nursery seedling management and effective reforestation techniques. In partnership with the Mahajanga University, Eden Reforestation Projects uses the HDTC to increase the number of competent managers who have the skill needed to operate a nursery that will produce 100,000 to 500,000 seedlings each year. These managers then partner with local area villages, start nurseries, and get busy with restoring the habitat that is essential to lemur well being.

Fire prevention

Fire is the primary threat to all reforestation efforts in Madagascar, so Eden Reforestation Projects protect their reforestation sites by surrounding them with fire breaks and by hiring emergency fire prevention crews.

Helping lemurs in captivity

Starting in 2015, Eden Reforestation Project’s will begin to focus on developing their captive lemur restoration systems together with Malagasy government authorities. Their ultimate objective is to gradually release captive lemurs back into their natural habitats and transfer lemurs from fractured and degraded patches of forest to healthy and protected habitats.

Partnering with local communities

IMG_6949Eden Reforestation Projects believes in holistic community development, including assisting with the construction of schools, fresh water wells, and some medical services. In addition, Eden Reforestation Projects partners with local communities to provide employment opportunities as tree planters and forest guards. These partnerships initially began with their “Employ to Plant” approach to habitat restoration, which pays thousands of people across multiple developing countries – including Madagascar – to plant trees.

Sustainability of programming

NCS_8591Regarding sustainability, Eden has a diverse approach that begins with the establishment of legal agreements with the local, regional, and national government agencies that authorize the reforestation efforts and include preserving the restored forests in perpetuity. Further, Eden is partnered with Mahajanga University and has an agreement with the Ankarafantsika National Park, where they seek to educate the communities with the goal of preserving the forests and local lemur populations.

Fruit orchards and fuel-efficient stoves

Eden Reforestation Projects knows that reforestation projects are only impactful if other programs are instituted to help the local communities refrain from cutting those new forests back down. Therefore, they have also planted fruit trees as well as trees that can be used in construction. These are beneficial to the local villagers and ensure that their physical and financial needs are accounted for. In addition, in each of the villages, fuel-efficient stoves and/or solar-stoves have been provided, which have largely led to a significant decrease in charcoal production and use in the areas where Eden serves.

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