By Claire Raisin, Field Programmes Coordinator
The Chester Zoo 2018 staff expedition, aims to assist our partners, Madagasikara Voakajy (MV), with a number of their ongoing conservation project activities. It will strengthen the zoo’s partnership with MV but also to provide opportunities for staff to get involved with the conservation activities that the zoo supports, and to gain experiences they would not necessarily obtain through their day to day work.
The focus of the expedition will be biodiversity surveys at Mangabe New Protected Area (NPA) where we will be looking for lemurs, herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians), small mammals and birds. In addition to the surveys, we will also work with local communities and schools on a number of conservation, education and engagement activities.
Chester Zoo has been working with MV for a number of years and our early projects focused on amphibian conservation, particularly of the golden mantella frog. The species’ entire range is less than 9,000 hectares and is restricted to the Moramanga region of Madagascar. Chester Zoo has been assisting with the surveying and restoration of the frog’s breeding ponds along with an intensive Capture-Mark-Recapture survey programme within Mangabe NPA to estimate population size since 2012. This project formed the focus of the 2016 staff expedition to Madagascar.
Mangabe NPA is home to at least nine lemur species including the indri, aye-aye and diademed sifaka. There are a number of nocturnal lemur species in the park, some of which have not yet been identified. Chester Zoo has been supporting the MV teams to survey these lemurs and record evidence of illegal hunting. In addition to monitoring these populations, MV are working with youth teams from around Mangabe NPA to create young ambassadors for lemur conservation who take action to protect these species and raise awareness within their communities. The youth teams are also taught sustainable agricultural techniques to improve their future livelihoods.
The expedition this year will see staff from Chester Zoo and Craghoppers joining the MV team on these lemur surveys as well as working with the youth teams to build their confidence and skills in campaigning. We will also visit local schools and communities to talk to them about the work that Chester and MV are involved in and why the rest of the world thinks that Madagascar is such an amazing place.
In addition, the expedition provides us with a great opportunity to try new methods and techniques. Having a large number of staff on site at the same time means that we can test new survey methods or look for specific species. This year we hope to try and identify some of the small carnivores in the area as well surveying for reptiles such as geckos and chameleons. The team at MV would like Mangabe to become an eco-tourism travel destination so by helping to identify the suite of species present in the park and working with local staff on designing survey routes and walks, we will be helping to ensure the long term sustainability of the park and the people that live within it.
Claire Raisin, Field Programmes Coordinator