Madagasikara Voakajy supports conservation of endemic vertebrates and their habitats in the Alaotra-Mangoro Region.
Supporting lemur conservation since 2005 through job creation and awareness raising
Madagasikara Voakajy was established in 2005 to provide job opportunities for young Malagasy researchers. Over time, they have evolved to become an organization that provides opportunities for Malagasy biologists to become leaders in the conservation and ecological study of bats, chameleons and other small vertebrates. Nowadays, they use evidence-based interventions and stakeholder engagement to target their conservation programs, which focus on a variety of species and their natural habitats. Currently, they have teams of experts who focus on baobabs, bats, reptiles, amphibians and lemurs. Their geographic focus is the Alaotra-Mangoro Region.
What lemurs does Madagasikara Voakajy protect?
Madagasikara Voakajy currently impacts the following lemur species:
- Common brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus)
- Indri (Indri indri)
- Diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema)
To help monitor these species, the organization is implementing a monitoring program using the occupancy modeling, a method that could be implemented easily with the local communities.
Hunting for lemurs in the Alaotra-Mangoro Region (where Madagasikara Voakajy does much of its work) is a real problem. Their research on this topic has found that lemur hunting may be widespread in this region and may be increasing. In addition, the traditional taboos that some groups in this region hold against hunting some lemur species (like the Indri) may be breaking down.
How is Madagasikara Voakajy protecting habitat for lemur conservation?
Currently, Madagasikara Voakajy is promoting the creation and management of seven new protected areas in Alaotra-Mangoro Region. On of these seven sites is the Mangabe forest, which covers approximately 40,000 hectares in eastern Madagascar. In this forest, they are working with communities and the government to gain ‘protected area’ status for several habitat patches. In addition, they are supplementing this work with:
- Environmental education in primary schools;
- Supporting alternative income projects for women’s associations;
- Encouraging the uptake of alternative farming methods for traditional crops; and
- Creating and supporting community associations to manage natural resources.
In the past, they have worked with communities in a small number of key sites in the Anosy, Alaotra-Mangoro, and Menabe regions to support sustainable natural resource use and protect local habitats.
Partnering with local communities
Given the high rates of lemur hunting in their target region, Madagasikara Voakajy undertakes awareness campaigns to raise awareness of the protected status of lemurs with both children and adults. For example, they have ‘Lenari’ – their indri mascot – who interacts with audience members at outreach events through playing, singing and dancing. ‘Lenari’ makes appearances at the organization’s events which include animal festivals, drawing competitions, song and poem competitions, field trips, and even the creation of school biodiversity clubs.
Madagasikara Voakajy also undertakes outreach in schools. Their partnership with education authorities at the local level is especially helpful when schools that are located in communities that are within the boundaries of new protected areas.
Through their student training program, Madagasikara Voakajy continues to nurture the next generation of Malagasy scientists; they have supported dozens of Malagasy graduate students. They are also aiming to build the careers of promising Malagasy biologists through employment with their organization. For example, they with three Malagasy university departments to provide research students with experience of conducting field studies, as well as providing work experience opportunities. In addition, they undertake programs to build the capacity of wildlife professionals; this has included GIS training for Madagascar National Park staff and training courses on animal biology and for national park guides.