Programme Sahamalaza – Iles Radama
To advance the understanding and conservation of lemurs in Madagascar
The blue-eyed black lemur, Eulemur flavifrons, was rediscovered by science in 1983 after more than a century of uncertainty about its existence. After some initial surveys it soon became clear that the species was one of the most endangered of all lemurs, and that it did not occur in any existing protected area. The species is restricted to a small distribution area on and around the Sahamalaza Pensinusla in northwest Madagascar. The blue-eyed black lemur and the other lemur species living in Sahamalaza are threatened by forest destruction, both for slash-and-burn agriculture and to gain space for grazing cattle, and by hunting. Blue-eyed black lemurs were assessed as Critically Endangered (CR) by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at their Red List Assessment in April 2005, based on an 80% population reduction during the last 25 years. The same probably applies to the Sahamalaza sportive lemur, Lepilemur sahamalazensis, a species only described in 2006, which was not yet assessed at the Red List Assessment.
The Association Européenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des
Lémuriens (AEECL), a consortium of European zoological gardens and
universities, with the involvement of representatives of local
communities from the Sahamalaza Peninsula and representatives of
several environmental institutions, implemented a community-based
natural resource management programme (CBNRM) in December 2000. Two
objectives of this programme were identified: to maintain and
strengthen natural processes and the condition of terrestrial and
marine ecosystems and to improve natural resource use techniques in
order to improve the standard of living of the local human populations.
An action plan (Natural Resources Community Management Plan) was
proposed and is currently being implemented. It has since been the
reference framework for AEECL’s interventions in the Sahamalaza region.
Twenty-one Local Community Associations (LCA) as well as several social
and professional associations grouping young people, women, farmers,
fishers and craftspeople were set up in four communes. An LCA is
defined as a village-level association to which the law grants the
power to manage natural resources within its territory. These
associations will partly take over the management of the natural
resources in their communities and engage themselves to manage them in
a sustainable way. Thereafter, a local agreement (dina) on the
conservation of the environment was developed and formalized for each
of the LCAs that were set up. Moreover, in each village (fokontany) a
Village Forest Protection Committee was set up. The committees work in
liaison with the forest department’s representative in Analalava to
check permits issued by the representative for any logging and to look
after the work. AEECL is helping the local associations by providing
assistance with bureaucratic procedures as well as through offering
courses in e.g., sustainable rice cultivation or forest fire
management. As part of the CBNRM, AEECL has e.g. funded training in
irrigated rice farming, from which around 30 people from Sahamalaza
have benefited each year. Yields were 13.55t/ha and 17.14t/ha,
respectively, in pilot rice fields A and B, against 3t/ha in local rice
fields where traditional techniques were used. The association has also
provided farming equipment to several local communities, which can be
rented by farmers.
To increase awareness of the environment and the need for its conservation, AEECL also participates in the organisation of local festivals such as the “Vitrines de la Sofia” in July 2005 or the “Festival of the blue-eyed black lemur”, which has taken place for the fourth time in September 2008.
During the course of 2004 a field station and a scientific working group have been established by scientists of AEECL and the Universities of Antananarivo and Mahajanga in the Ankarafa forest, situated within the Sahamalaza - Iles Radama National Park. There still remain large gaps in the knowledge we have about the blue-eyed black lemur and other lemurs in the area. Together, the zoos united in AEECL are aiming to fill some of these gaps, especially concerning population and social dynamics, habitat utilisation, nutritional ecology, and veterinary issues, to be able to develop comprehensive conservation and management plans for this and other critically endangered lemur species. The first three long-term research projects, namely on the nutritional ecology, socioecology and parasitic status of the blue-eyed black lemur, have been carried out in Ankarafa within the framework of the Programme Sahamalaza - Iles Radama. Our research work moreover increases public awareness for the forest ecosystem in the region and facilitates long-term conservation and research efforts for the lemurs and their habitat. Other species that have been subject to studies and/or census work in Sahamalaza during the last years were the newly discovered Sahamalaza sportive lemur, Lepilemur sahamalazaensis, and the northern giant mouse lemur,Mirza zaza, as well as different bird species.
Our research in Sahamalaza and elsewhere in Madagascar aims at increasing the scientific understanding of endangered lemurs through the study of impacts of habitat degradation and fragmentation on their ecology and behaviour. Moreover, the speciation and distribution areas of different lemur taxa are investigated in order to be able to assign a conservation status to those species and to implement effective conservation measures.
The initial goal of the Programme Sahamalaza - Iles Radama was the creation of a national protected area for the blue-eyed black lemur and other species living on and around the Sahamalaza Peninsula. This goal was achieved in two steps: The area was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2001, and in July 2007 the marine and coastal national park Sahamalaza - Iles Radama was inaugurated by the Malagasy government. The current goals of the programme are to assist the local communities living around the core zones of the protected area in sustainably managing their natural resources; to implement and maintain an effective protection of the lemurs in Sahamalaza and their habitat; to study the conservation ecology of the blue-eyed black lemur, the Sahamalaza sportive lemur and other endangered species living in the protected area in order to inform ongoing conservation measures; to improve the standard of living of the local communities.
WAZA Conservation Project 09003 is implemented by the Association Européenne pour l'Etude et la Conservation des Lémuriens (AEECL) in collaboration with Madagascar National Parks (formerly ANGAP), and supported by: Apenheul Primate Park (the Netherlands), Zoo d'Asson, Zoo de Beauval, Parc Zoologique de Besancon, Zoo de la Palmyre, Montpellier Zoo , Parc Zoologique Mulhouse - Sud Alsace, Parc Zoologique de Paris, La Vallée des Singes (France) , Badoca Park (Portugal), Bristol Zoo Gardens, Banham Zoo, Colchester Zoo, Linton Zoo, Shaldon Wildlife Trust, Twycross Zoo, Woburn Wild Animal Park, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Rare Species Conservation Centre (United Kingdom), Parco Natura Viva (Italy), Parken Zoo (Sweden), Zoologischer Garten Köln, Naturzoo Rheine, Zoo Saarbrücken (Germany), Opole Zoo, Poznan Zoo (Poland), Ostrava Zoo, Plzen Zoo (Czech Republic), Zoo de Servion (Switzerland), Bioparc Valencia (Spain), and the Universities of Strasbourg (France), Antananarivo and Mahajanga (Madagascar).
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