The natural forest in the Corridor Ankeniheny-Zahamena (CAZ) is declining due to the practice of slash and burn agriculture mainly for rice cultivation. This ancestral practice is perpetuated due to a lack of suitable farming areas as well as a lack of support and technical supervision. Indeed, this represents a threat to the survival of the forest ecosystems of this corridor. Over 15 months of patrols, rangers found 273 incidences of clearing that destroyed about 549 hectares of forest.
During the “lean period” when food is scarce, some people seek food in the forest such as wild tubers, honey and bushmeat including lemurs. Bushmeat is a major issue and greatly impacts the populations of endemic and globally threatened species. Varecia variegata is one of the species caught most often. This is because it is easy to trap. In addition, there is no taboo prohibiting its consumption, unlike with the case of the Indri indri.
The project will support the conservation of highly threatened lemurs in the eastern part of the CAZ, supported by participation from children in primary and secondary school as well as scientists. This will involve direct actions to eradicate lemur traps. The project team will work with 13 group of COBAs (Community Based Associations). The COBAs are all part of the governance structure for the protected area and share responsibility for managing part of the forest. Members of the COBAs are trained monitoring agents. The project team's proposed activities to address the conservation needs will focus on:
- Assessing conservation threats through improved monitoring of conservation targets and surveillance. The project team and community stakeholders will introduce participatory ecological monitoring to standardize the data collection for surveillance activities, storing geo-referenced patrol data. The teams will patrol different areas of the CAZ, dismantling lemur traps and reporting other threats.
- The project team's engagement with the local communities will continue to build local awareness of threats. Sensitization activities will maintain the motivation of communities in the management, together with periodic encouragement of adherence from all local people including schoolchildren.
- Malagasy scientist form the University of Antananarivo will study the Indri’s diet and habitat use in this part of this eastern part of the CAZ. These identifications and space utilization will be superimposed to the tree species and distribution of selective logging as recorded by the villagers. Investigation on possible parasite infestation will be performed.
- The sustainable livelihood activities supported by small grants will complement the conservation activities for which the COBA are responsible at each site.
The proposed work is to support the ecological and economic sustainability of the conservation work in CAZ through the community co-management of the protected areas. This project ensures the conservation of endemic and globally important biodiversity and increases interest of children in lemurs and the capacity of local communities in protected area management.
The project aims to prevent the local extinction of lemur species in the project location by dismantling all traps; to improve the community data collection related to lemur distribution in collaboration with groups of community patrollers; in collaboration with teachers, children and youth from primary and secondary school to promote lemurs as part of the cultural heritage; to improve the livelihoods of local communities through participatory monitoring and micro-projects; and finally, to expand the knowledge of Malagasy scientists related to lemur conservation.