Photo Credit: Grainne McCabe

Growing links for lemurs: towards an effective reforestation of Sahamalaza-Iles Radama National Park



The Sahamalaza-Iles Radama National Park (SIRNP) lies in the Sofia Region of north-west Madagascar, and is home to eight species of lemur, including the Critically Endangerd blue-eyed black (Eulemur flavifrons) and Sahmalaza sportive lemurs (Lepilemur sahamalaza), the Endangered Sambirano mouse lemur (Microcebus sambirianensis), northern giant mouse lemur (Mirza zaza), and Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), and the Vulnerable Sambirano lesser bamboo lemur (Hapalemur occidentalis) and the black lemur (Eulemur macaco). The fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius) is also present in SIRNP.

Despite its legal protection, the main threats facing SIRNP, and the lemurs within, come from local communities who, as a result of poverty and a high reliance on natural resources still practice activities within the forest that lead to forest destruction and degradation. This occurs mainly through logging and land conversion for subsistence agriculture, and an increasing and presumably unsustainable levels of hunting. Consequently, there are no larger connected areas of intact primary forest left on the Sahamalaza Peninsula, and the remaining fragments all show some degree of anthropogenic disturbance and/or edge effects. Conservation initiatives are therefore urgently needed to save resident lemur species from extinction. 


Since much of the remaining forest in SIRNP is highly degraded, reforestation has been identified as an essential measure to protect threatened lemur populations.  Unfortunately, previous attempts have been unsuccessful.  Working with a Malagasy team, this project will create and monitor experimentally reforested plots to identify best practice regarding levels of management. Following the evidence-based conservation strategy of Bristol Zoological Society, experimentally determining successful reforestation efforts is essential before any further conservation reforestation initiatives can be implemented in this region. Forest change and lemur population size across the park will also be monitored in addition to the incidence of illegal activities.  These baseline data will be vital to evaluate the efficacy (in terms of lemur population sizes and distributions) of the reforestation programme once re-established.

The objectives for this project are three-fold:

(1) To determine the most effective method of reforestation by establishing varied experimental reforestation plots;

(2) To monitor forest change (loss or expansion); and

(3) To monitor lemur population size and distribution.

This programme will help us to combat the major threats to resident lemur populations of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and poaching.


By the end of this project we will have evaluated the most effective method of reforestation for SIRNP, based on the level of plant survival and growth in experimental plots. We will also have multiple years of mapping data on change in forest (fragment) size throughout SIRNP. We will also have multiple years of population size and distribution data for all lemur species in SIRNP. We will also be able to relate lemur populations across the national park (both nocturnal and diurnal) to habitat type and availability. Ultimately, these baseline data will be used to determine the effectiveness of the reforestation programme when re-established. 


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