Why are we carrying out conservation work in Madagascar?

Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries with over 92% of people living below the poverty line. It is also the only place in the world where lemurs can be found. Local people are being forced to turn to unsustainable livelihood practices to make a living, which in turn is threatening the lemurs’ habitats. As a result, many lemur species are becoming threatened with extinction. We are working to help safeguard three specific species; the blue eyed black lemur, the Sahamalaza sportive lemur and the Sambirano mouse lemur.

Why endangered?

The blue eyed black lemur is among the world’s rarest and most endangered primates. There has been an 80% population decrease of this species and the Sahamalaza sportive lemur in the last 25 years. The extreme poverty in Madagascar means local people are forced to resort to unsustainable livelihood practices, causing forest destruction, degradation and fragmentation. The lemurs’ habitats become destroyed and populations thus decrease. Lemurs are also hunted as a food source.

What are we doing in Madagascar?

Our project in Madagascar is based on the Sahamalaza Peninsula, north-west Madagascar. We have a field station in the Ankarafa Forest; a protected area and reserve. We are in partnership with 30 European Zoos to help safeguard the future of Madagascar’s lemurs as part of the AEECL - the Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens. Bristol Zoological Society is actively involved in field-based research, community-based development programmes with local people and maintaining a population of lemurs in human care.

What is our strategy?

Each year, we send post-graduate students to conduct research on the three lemur species in an effort to better understand their behaviour and ecology, which enables us to work with local NGOs and the Malagasy government to create informed conservation management plans for these species and the region.

In addition, our research scope includes bats, birds, reptiles and amphibians of Sahamalaza.
In order to make a real difference, it is imperative to change the mind-set of local people to help save their natural heritage. We have implemented development programmes and conservation education to include help with cultivation, reforestation, fire control and protection, schools and the provision of drinking water.

We are also involved in maintaining a population of blue-eyed black lemurs in human care. Bristol Zoological Society has undertaken research on the nutrient and energy requirements of captive blue-eyed black lemurs and other lemur species to optimise diets and learn more about their physiology and nutritional needs. This knowledge can in turn be used to inform conservation measures in the wild.

Read more about the work we are doing in Madagascar here.

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