Known locally as 'bandro', the Lac Alaotra gentle lemur (Hapalemur alaotrensis) is a species of bamboo lemur found only in the reed beds around Lake Alaotra in northeast Madagascar. This species lives in family groups of up to a dozen members and is the only species of primate that has adapted to live exclusively in wetland habitats. It feeds on papyrus, reeds and grasses.
Lac Alaotra is the largest lake in Madagascar and is a wetland of global importance under the Ramsar Convention. It is the country's largest inland fishery and the wetlands provide the largest rice growing area.
The main threat to this important wetland is the conversion of marshes to rice-fields through burning, causing large areas of habitat to be destroyed each year. Consequently this unique species is facing rapid loss of its marsh habitat.
This project will allow the project team to establish a new vision for the lake ecosystem to ensure that the bandro's habitat is protected by supporting local communities to sustainably manage their natural resources within the new protected area. This builds on years of community-focused work to date which has also contributed to the creation of the Lac Alaotra New Protected Area.
The project will also work to improve monitoring of threats, and will increase law enforcement and compliance through a community patrol programme. An important component of the project will involve restoring gentle lemur habitat through marsh planting and the reduction of major threats (burning, habitat conversion, and invasive species).
The project will support local communities to develop alternative livelihoods that improve income and have a low environmental impact. Awareness-raising activities will also be used to increase local pride and understanding of the gentle lemur and the importance and value of conserving Lake Alaotra.
Five key outcomes are expected, including:
All 18 local communities are able to sustainably manage their natural resources and the Lake Alaotra New Protected Area is managed by an authority recognised by community and government stakeholders.
The community monitoring programme is fully operational and involving all 18 villages leading to improved monitoring of threats, increased identification of infractions, and increased compliance with local regulations.
Habitat restoration has resulted in 100ha of marsh being planted to reconnect fragments of habitat, and methods have been developed to control invasive aquatic plants and reduce burning.
Sustainable alternative livelihoods have been developed including sustainable agriculture and handicrafts, leading to increased income and food security and reduced pressure on gentle lemur habitat.
An awareness campaign is run through radio broadcasts and community workshops, and all 18 villages participate in an annual competition to reinforce the benefits of sustainable resource use. Children from 20 local schools participate in field trips to increase local awareness of the gentle lemur and the local environment.