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Antongil Conservation

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Red Ruffed Lemur (Varecia rubra)
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Antongil Conservation
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Antongil conservation is a project that works in north-west Madagascar, in an area called Maroantsetra, at the northern end of the Bay of Antongil. It is a market town and domestic seaport. It is a unique place, where tropical forest meets the sea.
Image credit: Google Maps
This area’s remoteness means that it is very difficult to get to, other than by air or boat.

Our project works on either side of the river, which acts as a biodiversity corridor, meaning that the species found on either side are divided and therefore slightly different. In particular, since lemurs cannot swim, a population of red ruffed lemurs is found on one side, whilst belted black and white lemurs exist on the other side.

Since the local people are very poor, they are forced to live off the land to survive, meaning that for many years they have hunted lemurs as their main source of meat, and cut down the forests to sell the wood, and use the land for farming, mainly for rice production. Unfortunately their slash and burn technique causes the soil to dry out and crack, causing a low productivity of crops, and quite often the soil becomes somewhat infertile after the first rice harvest. This means they then move on to another area of the forest, causing ever more destruction of the forest and inefficient use of the land.

Since 2006, the Malagasy government have entrusted us with the management of 1650 hectares of rainforest, known as Farankaraina Forest. This area is home to many remarkable species of plants and animals, including various birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as a number of unique mammals. Currently, we employ 12 full time staff, and our funding also covers the costs of all the transport and equipment our rangers require in their field programmes.

Resources

Check out our resources below!

Research & Reintroduction

Research
Our teams carry out regular environmental surveys. Recently our rangers have come across wild populations of mongoose, fossa, tenrec, falcanouc, and Indian civets, as well as a number of different lemur sightings in the area, including White-fronted lemurs, Bamboo lemurs, Dwarf lemurs, Woolly lemurs, and the rare Aye-aye.

Reintroduction Programmes
We are operating a reintroduction project for Red Ruffed Lemurs, to rebuild their populations in areas of the forest this species has previously used, but been forced out by hunting. This requires a lot of planning, as the forest must first be determined a suitable environment for the lemurs, i.e. sustainable levels of food, predators, shelter, etc. before they can be released, to ensure their survival in the wild. The process also requires the lemurs to be gradually integrated into the forest via release pens, so that they are habituated to life in the wild, and then carefully monitored after release. The red ruffed lemur is in the IUCN top 25 of most endangered primates in the world.

True/False

Environment & Tourism

Resource Management
Before our work began in the area, it was found that despite there being abundant water availability, the local people struggled to manage it efficiently for their use. We have funded the building of water damns in many of the nearby streams. This has enabled us to channel 50% of the water which flows down from neighbouring mountains, to a large area of newly constructed paddy fields. As a result, local farming produce has increased tenfold! Farmers can use their crop supply to feed their families, and sell any surplus at a profit, or even use it as animal feed, to help boost duck and chicken farming. This new found availability of meat means that they no longer have to hunt lemurs for food, and can enjoy a richer, more stable diet.

Environmental Protection
The charity employs rangers who safeguard the area from illegal logging and poaching activities. We are currently working to regrow areas of the forest that have been destroyed, by planting and caring for tree nurseries, and we try to keep the environment clean of litter and pollution. We also promote eco-friendly energy through use of solar power or hydro-electric power and promote recycling and composting waste.

Ecotourism
The charity also works closely with local communities, providing them with a means of improving their economy and quality of life. Largely this is done through ecotourism – we currently have six guest lodges, along with a number of purpose built bird hides. Our rangers create and maintain tourist trails in this area, and lead guided tours, and provide tourist information.

Lemur Pairs Game

Education

The project also facilitates improvements to medical care, teaching, scientific research, and creation of many new job opportunities.

We have assisted community centres and schools, and have donated facilities, such as desks, computers, camera equipment etc. In 2010 we signed an agreement with the regional education administration to be recognised as an official educative organisation for children.

Given the remoteness of the villages, the project has to think of innovative ways of reaching people. Radio is extremely important and effective – weekly broadcasts pass on messages of the threats to the environment, along with conservation solutions, and the benefit of these to agriculture and future generations. Communication with villages is also maintained by monthly visits, to share information of projects, and discuss any problems and devise solutions. These exchanges help the rangers work with the local people to develop a relationship that benefits both people and the environment.

Workshops and meetings often include educational presentations and exhibitions, including talks from our scientists in the field, showing environmental movies, fieldtrips and youth clubs for school groups, and adult training workshops that encourage villagers to develop skills that can be used to earn an income – these include farming techniques, the building of micro dams, production of essential oils, beekeeping, botany, and crafts.

Community

To celebrate the success of our conservation efforts, we host an annual lemur festival. More than 14 local villages take part in this huge celebratory carnival, organised and funded by the charity, which includes music, dance, games, poetry, and art. We also lay out a feast of rice and zebu cattle meat, cooked in large oil drums, and served on banana leaves, spread out down the streets for all to share. It is such a popular event that it has now become a part of local culture, boosting morale and raising awareness for lemur conservation!

The forest of Madagascar is under serious threat of total destruction. Our activities are essential to the future of tropical forest and the wildlife within. We celebrated 11 years of continuous support and success in 2016.

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