The forest of Tsitongambarika is one of the last expanses of lowland rainforest left in Madagascar and comprises the country’s southern-most rainforest. The area is home to seven lemur species, including one Critically Endangered (Lepilemur fleuretae) and three Endangered (Avahi meridionalis, Eulemur collaris, Daubentonia madagascariensis) taxa.
In recent decades Tsitongambarika forest has suffered one of the highest annual rates of deforestation of all Madagascar’s humid forests. The forest edges are being degraded rapidly by increasing human pressures arising from growing populations in coastal villages and the town of Fort Dauphin.
The primary cause of this habitat loss is forest clearance for agriculture, particularly on the eastern side. Hunting is also a significant threat to lemurs, especially for diurnal species.
The project targets two key areas, one in the north and one in the south of Tsitongambarika Protected Area. The grantee will address the threat of habitat loss by strengthening patrols, reducing local people’s dependency on trees and providing education about fire prevention. The project team will also tackle habitat loss by creating a corridor of endemic tree species to reconnect the southern section of Tsitongambarika forest to the remaining protected area.
The grantee will conduct ecological monitoring and a conservation education programme within the two target areas using the recently established Ampasy research station as a hub to provide forest-based learning experiences for children from nearby villages. A feasibility study to promote the station as an eco-tourism location from Fort Dauphin will be also performed.
Finally, the grantee will collect ecological data on the three least understood lemur species in the area. These include the aye-aye, Fleurete’s sportive lemur and the southern woolly lemur. The project team will also investigate the drivers of lemur hunting in the area.
As a result of the activities planned for this project, the grantee aims to reducing deforestation and habitat loss by 50% by the end of 2020. In that time, their target is for half of all children between 8 and 12 years of age within the project area to be able to identify the lemur species that live in Tsitongambarika and to understand the importance of lemurs and forest biodiversity and their relationship with human livelihoods.
By the end of 2020, the grantee will complete a feasibility study into the potential to use Ampasy Research Station as base for eco-tourism. The information on the least known and more threatened lemur species in the area will be used to inform the development of effective conservation strategies for implementation via an area-based management plan.