SEED Madagascar’s Conservation Research Programme
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By Amelia Sandford, Volunteer and Logistics Officer
Madagascar is one of the poorest yet most biodiverse countries on earth, with 83% of the island’s species endemic. The social challenges and environmental threats Madagascar faces are inextricably linked and require an integrated response. At SEED Madagascar, we design sustainable, holistic projects informed by the needs of both the community and environment.
SEED Madagascar (SEED) is an award-winning British registered charity, which envisages communities and ecosystems thriving across Madagascar. Our central mission is to enhance the capacity of individuals, communities, organisations and government in fulfilling sustainable environment, education and development goals in southeast Madagascar. We integrate high quality community health, sustainable livelihoods, education infrastructure and conservation programmes to support long term, sustainable change, whilst adding to international best practice through research and publication across all of our programmatic areas. SEED’s head office is situated in Taolagnaro (Fort-Dauphin) and the majority of our projects are based in the Anosy region. Our national and international staff work together across five departments: Community Health, Education Infrastructure, Sustainable Livelihoods, WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and Environmental Conservation.
Within our environmental conservation department is SEED’s Conservation Research Programme (SCRP), which has been operating for over 15 years from a permanent research camp in the beautiful coastal area of Sainte Luce. The southern littoral forest in Sainte Luce is one of only three significant areas of this forest type remaining in Madagascar, having been reduced by over 90% nationally. As the forest has both high biodiversity and a heavily reliant local population, we work to combine scientific research with community conservation to build knowledge and capacity in the area. With a dedicated team of researchers, Malagasy field guides and spotters, and volunteers we have carried out extensive research into the extreme biodiversity of this area, and worked with the local community on conservation initiatives. Some of our current projects include: Endemic palms research and conservation; reforestation to protect lemurs and other species; wetland conservation, research into a new species of chameleon (form of ‘Palleon cf. nasus), Malagasy flying fox (Pteropus rufus) research and conservation, long-term herpetofauna and lemur monitoring.
Lemurs are famously endemic to Madagascar. One of our long term SCRP projects is monitoring the population size and distribution of the three nocturnal lemur species found in Sainte Luce; Microcebus tanosi (Anosy mouse lemur), Cheirogaleus thomasi (Thomas’ dwarf lemur) and Avahi meridionalis (Southern woolly lemur). All three species are now classified as Endangered by the IUCN, so further research is urgently needed. Our large research database and subsequent knowledge of Sainte Luce’s wildlife is used to design our environmental and livelihood projects. Informed by SCRP’s continued nocturnal lemur research and monitoring, SEED established Project Ala which aims to increase and improve viable habitat for these endangered lemurs through growing forest corridors to join isolated fragments. Alongside the reforestation, the project works to strengthen local and regional capacity to support the conservation of lemurs and their natural habitats. Among other SEED research projects and conservation initiatives, volunteers work with our team to survey the nocturnal lemurs and monitor the growth of the forest corridors for Project Ala.
Volunteers add invaluable capacity to our permanent conservation team, enabling the continuation and growth of our research in the region. Each year there are four 10-week SCRP schemes (January, April, July and October). During the schemes, volunteers of all ages from around the world join the scheme for 2-10 weeks, staying in our permanent research camp surrounded by rare littoral forest fragments. Participating in cutting-edge conservation research projects in a region of such great biodiversity and endemism is an unparalleled opportunity for both aspiring and experienced conservationists. The breadth of concurrent conservation projects allows for the employment and practice of varying conservation techniques and approaches.
Volunteers enjoy learning from the Malagasy guides who share their vast and extensive knowledge of the local wildlife, flora and fauna. Bella, who volunteered with SEED this January, shares her experience: “You soon fall into the swing of a daily routine, slotting easily into camp life and heading out on morning, afternoon and evening surveys to collect data for SEED’s conservation projects. From seeing the colony of 400+ flying fox bats for Project Rufus, to night walks through the forest spotting mouse lemurs and fat-tailed dwarf lemurs; from exploring the wetlands to collect data on floral biodiversity for Project Mahampy, to looking for endemic reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates in the wildlife corridors for Project Ala, there is never a day that doesn’t throw something new and exciting at you.”
If you are interested in volunteering with SEED or would like to find out more about our research, you can either check out our website or email us at: email@example.com
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