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Madagascar reforestation project update

Posted on: 6 June, 2024

Earlier this year, our conservation team helped plant over 15,000 seedlings in Sahamalaza Iles Radama National Park in north-west Madagascar, as part of efforts to restore forests and increase habitat for the many threatened species that reside there.

They include the Critically Endangered blue-eyed black lemur, a flagship species in our northern Madagascar conservation programme and one of the threatened species living at Bristol Zoo Project, which are part of a European breeding programme.

The seedlings came from Bristol Zoological Society’s nursery in the Ankarafa forest, and also from two community-run nurseries in neighbouring villages that are managed by the Society and supported by our partner, AEECL, The Lemur Conservation Association.

The involvement of local communities is crucial for conservation success. Since establishing these community nurseries, our nursery managers are reporting greater community engagement with conservation efforts, including protecting reforested areas from threats (e.g. grazing zebu cattle and fire), as well as providing tangible benefits for everyone. One of the community nursery managers said: “People come to us to learn about how to plant seedlings, to plant the best way, to get good quality seedlings. So, it is good for conservation and planting trees, but also for producing food. Our work helps many people here.”

Most seedlings were planted in and around the protected fragments of Ankarafa, where most of our conservation work is focused. However, around a third were planted around neighbouring villages to increase forest cover there, but also to provide a source of wood and other forest products that villagers can use in the future. This will reduce the community’s reliance on the remnant forests, and lead to lower habitat disturbance and destruction for the resident wildlife.

Once the seedlings are planted, we continue to provide follow up care. Every year they are monitored for growth and survival to allow us to determine planting success. We also often provide additional support for them in the form of protective barriers from grazing zebu cattle and the removal of competing weeds.

By sowing the seeds of change now, we are hopeful that Madagascar’s forests and their resident wildlife will be secure in the future.

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