LOCATION: Tulear (southwest), madagascar
TARGET SPECIES: Ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta)
Community Conservation began its project in southwest Madagascar south of Tulear with a grant from the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation focused on the ring-tailed lemur (called maki locally). At the same time Community Conservation ran a training course for 40 members of World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Madagascar, local NGOs and members of the Madagascar Park Service, PNM-ANGAP (Parcs Nationaux Madagascar – Association National pour le Gestion des Aires Protegées).
The course was funded by a Sea World/Busch Gardens Conservation Fund grant. The project gives Community Conservation the opportunity to try to create regional change in SW Madagascar as we did in Assam, India. Community Conservation began the project in 2007 when Mark Fenn working for WWF-Madagascar and the Park Service visited the Community Conservation office to discuss working together. The Madagascar Park Service has recently tripled their number of parks in the south in accordance with the Durban Vision of President Marc Ravelomanana in 2003.
With increased parks but without a similar increased budget many protected areas are ripe to try community co-management. This has given Community Conservation an opportunity to work with four regions in south and southwest Madagascar. These regions within Toliara District comprise much of the dry and spiny forests that have 80% plant endemism and are not well protected.
The project has initially focused on a dry area with dwarf forests that look similar to the US western chaparral with local endemic plant species. Some of the huge baobab trees seen in other areas are dwarfed by the climate.
Beginning with a grant from the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation that focuses on primates, the project centers on the ring-tailed lemur whose geographic range somewhat coincides with the dry forests. However, a recent census showed only a small population of about 50 animals due to their capture for pets. Other significant endangered species in the area are the red shouldered vangra that is thought to occur there, radiated tortoises that have also been decimated for the pet trade and two species of mouse lemurs.
The project has formed a new non-governmental organization, “Cultures & Conservation” to run the project. Some staff for Cultures & Conservation have already been hired and students from Madagascar abroad have been surveying some of the biota in the Tulear area. Community Conservation will mentor and work with them as they in turn work with the four communities in the area. A few members from the communities of Ankaronga, Ankilibe, Sainte Augustin and Sarandrano participated in the training session. A second training session in June 2008 was carried out in Morondava, north of Tulear to train other NGO and government staff in that area.