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MAHERY at Harvard University

Harvard University: Madagascar Health and Environmental Research (MAHERY)

What We Do

There are no greater global concerns than the disappearance and destruction of our planet’s ecosystems and wildlife and the improvement of human health and food security for vulnerable human populations around the world.

MAHERY has focused much of its efforts on the following bodies of research:

  • the impact of overhunting and terrestrial wildlife declines on food security and nutrition
  • the impact of fisheries management and marine conservation on food security and nutrition
  • the use of traditional medicines by local people
  • the practice of pica and geophagy
  • barriers to accessing healthcare and adequate nutrition
  • the role of livestock husbandry in securing adequate nutrition
  • the role of wildlife hunting and consumption in zoonotic disease transmission
  • the disease ecology of various infectious diseases (i.e. malaria)

Black and white ruffed lemur in Madagascar. Photo: Arto Hakola.

What Lemur Species We Study

Focal lemur species include:

  • Indri (Indri indri)
  • Black and white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata)
  • Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)
  • White-headed lemur (Eulemur albifrons)

How We Support Local Communities

In each of these research activities, we have collaborated with local organizations and trained American and Malagasy students to understand how to carry out interdisciplinary research. All of our work has always been driven by and embedded in local communities to understand the psychology around illegal wildlife harvesting and to develop a paired vision for future conservation and development.

Since 2004, our team has been actively researching the intersection of environmental health and human health to understand the ways in which ecosystem transformation has downstream effects on human wellbeing. Most of our work has centered on estimating the role of bushmeat hunting in both decimating local wildlife populations (lemurs, carnivores, bats, tenrecs, etc.) and also influencing human nutrition and food security.

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Mad Dog Initiative


The Mad Dog Initiative

What We Do

Mad Dog team members in Madagascar.

The Mad Dog Initiative is working to protect and conserve the biodiversity of Madagascar through a targeted feral and domestic dog spay/neuter, vaccination, removal, and adoption program.

In addition to this targeted program, we are conducting photographic sampling (camera trapping) of carnivore populations and lemur transect sampling to evaluate the effectiveness of this dog control program. Further, we are modeling the interactions between feral and domestic dogs and a host of endemic carnivore and lemur species.

To address the ultimate causes of why dogs go feral in Madagascar and to improve our understanding of the role of dogs in households and villages across Madagascar, we are conducting expansive household surveys and questionnaires.

How We Support Local Communities

Dr. Zoavina Randriana greets a cat owner eager to get her furry friend vaccinated. Photo: Mad Dog Initiative.

Photo credit: Mad Dog Initiative

Our project consists of a number of collaborations among US, Canadian, and Malagasy researchers, students, and veterinarians.

Our research project currently employs:

  • two Malagasy veterinarians,
  • one Malagasy veterinarian student,
  • two Malagasy researchers,
  • up to four local guides, and
  • one US field technician.

As the result of our success in promoting and developing consideration for the human treatment and conservation of wildlife, we were awarded with the Virginia McKenna award from Compassionate Conservation and the Born Free organization.

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