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Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP)

Madagascar Biodiversity Paternship logMadagascar Biodiversity Partnership works with communities on comprehensive research and conservation programming.

Supporting Lemur Conservation by believing that everything is connected, or “Mampifandray ny tontolo”

Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership Dr. Louis, Shelia Holmes and Varecia_ HHamilton

Dr. Louis and Sheila Holmes collecting data from a lemur.

The Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP) was founded in 2010 by Dr. Edward E. Louis Jr., Director of Conservation Genetics at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (OHDZA) who has been working in Madagascar since 1998. The MBP strives to protect local forests for the lemurs while sustainably raising the standard of living for communities who are equally reliant upon the natural resources. Believing that everything is connected, or “Mampifandray ny tontolo”, the MBP incorporates research, education and community involvement to achieve sustainability.

What Lemur Species does the Madagascar Biodiversity Project Protect?

Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership Baby Lepilemur septentrionalis_EE Louis Jr

A baby Lepilemur septentrionalis being examined.

MBP works across the country to support research and outreach related to several different lemur species, including:

 

  • Aye aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
  • Black-and-white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata)
  • Crowned lemur (Eulemur coronatus)
  • Diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema)
  • Greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus; only about 300 individuals remain!)
  • Northern sportive lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis; only about 50 individuals remain!)
  • Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta)

The MBP is pioneering research on the northern sportive lemurs, whose populations are incredibly small (less than 50 individuals remaining) and who cannot be kept in captivity. In addition – and together with the Malagasy government – they have helped re-establish the diademed sifaka and the black-and-white ruffed lemur to their historical ranges in the Analamazoatra Special Reserve. These populations are now monitored by the MBP year-round. Finally, the MBP uses radio collars and other innovative technology to track lemur populations; this helps increase understanding of how different species use different types of habitat and how conservation programs can effectively protect lemurs in the future.

Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership Nore teaching planting techniques_HHamilton

Teaching planting techniques in rural Madagascar.

How is MBP Protecting Habitat for Lemur Conservation?

MBP is a leader in reforestation efforts in Madagascar, and undertakes programming in west (Andasibe, Kianjavato) and southern Madagascar (Lavavolo). The MBP also undertakes reforestation initiatives in the areas where it is working to distribute fuel-efficient cook stoves in northern Madagascar.

The MBP’s largest reforestation programming is based in Kianjavato and is called the Education Promoting Reforestation Project (EPRP). This program’s success is based on the fact that seeds which have passed through a lemur’s intestinal tract grow better than seeds that haven’t; by collecting the seeds in lemur poop, the MBP has been able to plant over 60,000 trees!

Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership EPP Kianjavato students with trees_HHamilton

Students from the Kianjavato public school students with trees.

This program – and the associated community education and outreach efforts – have been so successful that they were featured on National Public Radio in the United States and in other media outlets worldwide. Moving forward, the MBP hopes to plant one million trees and restore Kianjavato’s fragmented forest landscape.

Partnering with Local Communities

Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership Member of Single mothers Club planting trees_HHamilton

A member of Single Mothers Club planting trees.

Madagascar has a young and growing population that is increasingly reliant upon the country’s dwindling natural resources, which is compounded by their decreasing GDP. Despite the precarious conditions, there is room for hope. The MBP has initiated multiple community-based conservation efforts and development plans designed to rebalance the relationship between people and the ecosystem; many of their community outreach efforts are conducted together with Conservation Fusion.

Fuel-efficient cook stoves

In partnership with the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and with Conservation Fusion, MBP is undertaking work to reduce the use of charcoal in some areas of Madagascar. Charcoal production – which causes large areas of forest to be cut down in Madagascar and is often unsustainable – is a big threat to lemur populations. MBP has distributed over 100 fuel-efficient cooking stoves and supplements these with hands-on education programs and reforestation initiatives.

Aquaponics development

Aquaponics is a sustainable food production method that combines techniques used to raise fish for food and hydroponics methods for growing plants in liquid mediums. Properly balanced aquaponics systems can provide large amounts of food, which is important in areas of Madagascar where families are food insecure – meaning, in areas where families do not have access to the food that they need, when they need it. MBP – in partnership with a Omaha-based aquaponics nonprofit – is undertaking pilot programs which will help fine-tune the implementation of this type of equipment on-the-ground in Madagascar.

Capacity building

Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership Prolemur simus eating bamboo_ BEnyart

Prolemur simus eating some bamboo.

As part of the MBP’s ongoing research programs, over 50 Malagasy doctorate and graduate students, 30 Malagasy undergraduate students, and 10 international students have received considerable training in research methods and conservation paradigms. For example, through the MBP’s role in helping to re-establish lemur populations in the Analamazoatra Special Reserve, students and local communities have received training on how to monitor these new populations and how re-establishment programs must be designed in order to be successful.

In addition, the MBP supports 80+ full-time Malagasy employees as field assistants, project supervisors, office employees, and supporting staff members.

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GERP: Groupe d’étude et de recherche sur les primates de Madagascar

GERP Logo

GERP connects scientists in Madagascar with the international community to help build in-country capacity for lemur conservation.

Supporting lemur conservation through capacity building and collaboration

GERP connect Malagasy scientists united in saving lemurs.

GERP connects Malagasy scientists united in saving lemurs.

GERP (Groupe d’étude et de recherche sur les primates) is an association based in Madagascar with nearly 200 members, including scientists and primatologists. Its purpose is centered on the conservation of Madagascar’s lemurs, and since its inception, it has focused heavily on working with local communities in Madagascar to effect change. Established in 1994 by the Department of Biological Anthropology and Paleontology and Department of Animal Biology of the University of Antananarivo (Madagascar), its headquarters are located right on the university campus, in the center of the capital city. Notably, GERP took over management of the Maromizaha forest in 2008; a report of those activities can be read here.

What lemur species does GERP work with?

GERP broadly supports scientists and research efforts of all lemur species. The organization is best known for having played a key role in discovering three new species of lemurs:

  • Madame Berthe lemur (Microcebus berthae)
  • MacArthur’s mouse lemur (Microcebus macarthurii)
  • Gerp’s mouse lemur (Microcebus gerpi)

They also actively work in regions that protect several other lemur species, including:

  • Eastern woolly lemur (Avahi laniger)
  • Indri (Indri indri)
  • Diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema)
  • Common brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus)
  • Red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer)
  • Eastern lesser bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus)
  • Black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata)
GERP provides a real opportunity for Malagasy university students to connect with foreign researchers.

GERP provides a real opportunity for Malagasy university students to connect with foreign researchers.

The association primarily focuses on the scientific study of lemurs, including the study of their geographical distribution, the implementation of conservation plans, and participation in the discovery of new species. It is also responsible for transferring animals weakened by the destruction of their habitat to protected areas and zoos. Collaboration with other actors in the protection of working lemurs on the island and various educational programs of local people is another important aspect of its work.

How is GERP protecting habitat for lemur conservation?

Since 2008, GERP has been managing the Maromizaha forest in eastern Madagascar. This 1880 hectare forest is home to important wildlife but 98% of local villagers continue to extract resources from the park. For this reason, GERP’s responsibilities include patrolling the park, increasing enforcement, undertaking reforestation programming, and working to increase awareness in the region about alternative livelihoods and the value of nature.

In their role, GERP undertakes several patrols per yeas – sometimes several patrols per month – and try to raise awareness in the villages surrounding the park about the need to protect and use resources sustainably. To try and stem the intensification of forest destruction, GERP works with local and regional authorities to help enforce local laws, where enforcement is otherwise typically low.

In addition to enforcement, GERP manages a variety of other programs in and around this protected area. For example, they undertake reforestation programs in three villages; in 2014, each village nursery had the capacity to produce a minimum of 4,000 native plants. In addition, they manage lemur monitoring programs that are critical for increasing our understanding of whether threatened lemur species can still be found in these forest fragments and how they are being impacted by degradation.

Partnering with local communities

Education

By connecting scientists in Madagascar with international research groups, GERP is building the capacity of local community associations as well as primary and higher education systems in Madagascar; this will help increase the in-country capabilities to conserve endangered lemur populations. For example, in the villages surrounding the Maromizaha forest, GERP has donated hundreds of school uniforms to the students who cannot afford them and GERP has covered the costs of teacher salaries when no funding was available to pay them. Through its ongoing programs in Maromizaha, GERP has been able to offer local primary school students a variety of science educational opportunities, including guided visits into the forest and interactive tree-planting lessons.

World Lemur Festival

GERP was a key organizer of the first World Festival of Lemurs, which raised significant awareness for the plight of endangered lemur populations and engaged communities across the globe in lemur-related activities.

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