Grant Recipients Conference, Madagascar 2015

Grant Recipients Conference, Madagascar 2015

January 2015

1. Overview

Blue Ventures and the Rufford Foundation held a two day mini-conference for a selection of Rufford Small Grant (RSG) for Nature award winners who are undertaking or have finished undertaking conservation work in Madagascar. The theme of the workshop was ‘Sharing Experiences in Conservation’.

The main objectives of the conference were to:

     Provide a forum for grant recipients to discuss/exchange ideas, problems and create
    invaluable networking opportunities
     Increase communication and information between Rufford Foundation and its grant

This was the first ever RSG conference in Madagascar, and was attended by 14 grantees (with 20 grantees unable to attend), along with two Rufford representatives and organisational staff from Blue Ventures. The workshop began with an icebreaker exercise, in order for the participants to introduce themselves. All attendees then gave a short presentation about their work; the participants ranged from first-time RSG recipients, second-time recipients and Booster grant recipients. Half of the first day was allocated for the project presentations, where the participants either introduced their projects, updated Rufford on current developments or explained how their work has progressed since their RSG ended. Participants were also asked to write notes on the presentations throughout the day, with the object being to utilise these notes later during the group sessions.

The second half of the first day was dedicated to group work and discussions, where participants were invited to review and reflect on the various presentations in order to think about ‘What makes or breaks a successful conservation project?’. Using the notes that had been written down in the morning, the participants were split into four groups and asked to objectively consider how conservation projects work on the ground in Madagascar, with the aim of learning to implement more successful projects in the future. The second group session led on from the first, using what was previously discussed in order to think about the status of conservation in Madagascar overall:

‘Conservation in Madagascar – the challenges’. The day ended with a short, informal session, where participants provided feedback to Rufford based on their experiences, and also on the workshop itself. There was a field trip on day two to the Andasibe-Mantadia National Park, hosted by the Mitsinjo Association, a locally based organisation involved in nature conservation, eco-tourism, health and education. The trip included a nature walk, short presentation, and a tour of the Mitsinjo reforestation nursery and amphibian breeding centre. The workshop concluded with a dinner for all the attendees before returning to Antananarivo.

2. Abstracts

Honko, community led conservation and education NGO: Past, present and future Booster Grant

Tess May and Nina Hamilton
Honko was founded in 2007 by Benjamin De Ridder and Carola Zardo, to protect and restore the heavily degraded mangrove forests of southwest Madagascar, where coastal communities are strongly dependent on mangrove resources. Honko’s approach builds local capacity for community based management, restoration, promotion of alternative livelihoods, and education, working closely with the community and local management association (VOI) at every step. The project continues to develop new initiatives to help maintain the environment, with the ultimate aim to
have the community adopt these activities and manage their own resources effectively. Honko is based in the small community of Ambondrolava, 12 km north of Toliara, and works in four key areas:

    1. education,
    2. conservation,
    3. alternative livelihoods
    4. restoration.

Honko’s founders received three RSG grants from 2007-2013, enabling them to reactivate the local VOI, establish and enforce ambitious management strategies within the mangrove, and develop pilot alternative livelihood activities, including the Mangrove Information Center and a 2 km boardwalk for community-based ecotourism. Alternate livelihoods are a key component to their programme: apiculture (beekeeping), fresh fish farming techniques, building the capacity of the women’s association (illiteracy and business training), eco-tourism, and alternate fuel wood nurseries (lessening the impacts of deforestation in the mangroves). Honko also recently established mangrove and fisheries monitoring programmes, both conducted by international volunteers. They continue to implement regular educational and awareness raising activities, both in rural and urban schools and through larger events such as an annual World Mangrove Day celebration.

Reef doctor Fano Project: Past, present and future
Second Rufford Small Grant
Angelo RABEARISOA and Emma Gibbons

The study area of the project is the Bay of Ranobe located in the southwest of Madagascar, which is a sub-section of the largest Western Indian Ocean reef system of Toliara. The dominant ethnic group in the bay is the Vezo community; they obtain approximately 84% of their income from the near shore marine environment. Accordingly, the Reef doctor Fano project integrates traditional knowledge with fisheries management strategies. The project framework was built on five years of research, workshops and community meetings and the aims and objectives are:

     Strengthening of Vezo cultural identity through the protection of marine turtles.
     Developing and implementation of marine turtle community-based conservation, the first in Madagascar.
     Supporting the local marine turtle protection association (FI.MPA.MI.FA) through Network development - linking local, national and international institutes.

Key targets:

     To reach a minimum of 30% decline in turtle mortality associated with the targeted fishery by 2015.
     The 30% of juvenile turtles landed in the fishery under 70 cm Curve Carapace Length (CCL) will be tagged and released by the community association FI.MPA.MI.FA.
     90% of FI.MPA.MI.FA members from the thirteen communities of the Bay of Ranobe will participate in a marine resource management workshop.
     90-100% of NGO’s, community marine organizations and associations of the Toliara Reef System will be surveyed in the mission to develop a marine turtle conservation platform.

The future of the Fano project is to provide alternative livelihoods for turtle fishers, as well as improving marine turtle feeding habitat, and reduce their use of destructive fishing gear. This will help to protect seagrass, which is the marine turtle feeding habitat while also reducing the vulnerability of coastal communities to extreme poverty.

Sleeping site ecology and habitat use of the Southern Woolly lemur
Rufford Small Grant
Kathryn Scobie

This project explores the sleeping site ecology and habitat use of the southern woolly lemur (Avahi meridionalis), with a focus on the effects of habitat disturbance on the conservation of this IUCN listed endangered species. A. meridionalis are found in southeast Madagascar, in the protected areas of Sainte Luce, Mandena and Andohahela National Park; an area that covers less than 3000 km. These forests have, and continue to be, heavily impacted by human activity and as such are highly fragmented.

Specific aims of the project are to establish the habitat requirements of A. meridionalis, and identify how the availability of suitable habitat may be affected by logging activities. In addition, the project aims to record their population densities, and look for any correlation between these and a number of other metric variables such as logging pressure, fragment size and large tree availability. The point-centred quarter method was used to characterise the forest structure of eight fragments in Sainte Luce and Mandena, and to characterise areas of habitat seen to be used by A. meridionalis.

The population density of A. meridionalis within the same fragments was measured using the line transect method, and quadrat sampling was used to measure tree stump density. Data analysis is ongoing, and the final report is due for completion later in 2015. Going forward, a proposal has been made to investigate further the use of secondary forest by this species, including man-made corridors and plantations, and explore their potential as in-situ conservation measures. Geographical variation in vocalization, behaviour, morphology and genetics of mouse lemurs in western Madagascar

Rufford Small Grant

Vocalisation plays a major role for the reproduction and survival of lemurs, in particular the nocturnal species and is also suggested to play an important role in species diversity and evolution. The mouse lemur radiation, with its high diversity and cryptic species, was selected as a model for this study. Bioacoustics (research on the structure and use of animal vocalisations) was suggested to provide a useful and non-invasive tool to identify species and monitor their presence and abundance. This study will start in April 2015 and will have six different study sites in north-western Madagascar. Seven genetically defined species of mouse lemurs will be studied during the research.

The aim of the study is to enhance current knowledge on the use of bioacoustics as a non-invasive tool to identify mouse lemur species, and to monitor in the long term nocturnal lemur communities. At the end of this study, it is hoped to be able to estimate the density of mouse lemur populations at the study sites. An acoustic catalogue will also be created from the mouse lemurs observed in cages, as well as updated genetic samples for species analysis.

Association Mitsinjo: Looking to the future
Rufford Small Grant
Justin Claude Rakotoarisoa (on behalf of Jonathon Fiely)

Association Mitsinjo was created 1999 in Andasibe, eastern Madagascar; the Association focuses on conservation, nature-based tourism, and development - integrating the protection of prime habitat and the generation of sustainable income for the local communities. The initial RSG in 2008 was a collaboration between academics and the Association – where Mitsinjo members were trained in scientific survey methods, ran educational outreach activities and learned conservation leadership skills.

The conservation status of the giraffe weevil (Trachelophorus giraffe) is currently undetermined, and therefore local NGO partners have identified this critical knowledge gap as of the utmost importance to their conservation activities. Identification of suitable habitat and building a more complete natural history database could be beneficial to their continued existence. While previous and ongoing research conducted by the Association’s NGO partners has focused on the prioritisation of sites known to support the species, this study uses landscape ecology methods and intends to help identify additional suitable habitat patches within the natural forest. This could help reveal other species of giraffe weevil or potential sites for colonisation. This work would support the ongoing activities of Mitsinjo’s NGO partners in the identification of sites for inclusion in the Protected Areas
of Madagascar.

Enhancing community-managed conservation and ecotourism in Bobaomby, the north tip of Madagascar.
Rufford Small Grant

The project site is based in Anjabe and Ampombofofo, in northern Madagascar; an area known for its culture, taboos (or fady) and sacred places. This area still has tracts of dense forest and a wide variety of bird, reptile and lemur species, as well as tropical dry deciduous forest, mangrove and littoral forest. However, this area is under threat from habitat degradation and resource extraction to supplement income from low profits associated with rice production. Land is being cleared for cultivation, disturbed by zebu grazing, and trees felled for artisanal charcoal manufacturing. While local communities understand that these actions have negative impacts on the land, they also have little other choice when trying to provide for themselves.

The aim of this project is to continue to support the communities of Anjiabe and Ampombofofo by implementing a community conservation and ecotourism project. The project will develop conservation awareness in these communities through environmental education programmes, increase community capacity for developing tourism services such as tour planning and budgeting, catering, financial management, nature conservation, and language skills. In addition the project will continue to study the target species of fauna and flora that are most attractive to tourists.

Fungi biodiversity study and its conservation through conservation active learning at Ranomafana National Park
Rufford Small Grant
Doda James and Patrice Ravonjiarisoa

Despite their importance for humanity and maintaining healthy ecosystems, fungi continue to be of low priority for most conservation actions. Many fungi are under threat, and disappearing from their natural habitat due to human pressures. This project links conservation training and fungi conservation in Madagascar.

The main objectives of the project were to improve conservation training in the study area and learn more about fungi biodiversity, including ecology and distribution in order to create a conservation action plan. Many activities were undertaken to reach these goals including training workshops, a fungi training programme, fungi surveys, awareness raising and environmental education programmes, and an ethnomycological study.

Hunting of endemic Rousettus fruit bats in Madagascar: The demand for bushmeat, the impact on bat populations and the socioeconomic context
Rufford Small Grant
Dr Radosoa Andoniaina Andrianaivoarivelo

Madagascar’s three endemic fruit bat species are threatened by hunting, and habitat loss. They are classed as ‘game’ and can legally be hunted between May and August, however the hunting season is rarely adhered to. Bats are hunted for food in Madagascar, and are mainly targeted while feeding at night or while roosting during the day.

This research was focused on the small fruit bat (Rousettus madagascariensis), as it is particularly vulnerable to hunters because it roosts inside caves, where hunters can kill a large number of bats in a short time. Colony size, vegetation clusters around the cave, and evidence of hunting was collected during the project, as well as any evidence of slash and burn clearance near the roosts. Bats in the studied roosts were deemed to be hunted, but the absence of bats in local markets or restaurants within the study area suggested that bats were used for domestic consumption. The local people and authorities were unaware of the number of active bat hunters and generally appeared reticent to inform us about hunting. The vegetation loss around the cave made bats permanently abandon roosts and there was significant decrease in colony size following hunting activities. Conservation initiatives were established through the results obtained from the RSG support. These initiatives include community capacity development and environmental education for children.

Habitat loss in the buffer zone of National Park of Isalo: Effects on Scaphiophryne gottlebei and Mantella expectata and conservation issues
Rufford Small Grant
Soazara Ranivoarivelo

The objectives of this project were to evaluate the distribution of these species in seven sites of Isalo National Park and evaluate the sex-ratio of these species in each site. The period of investigation was from November 2012 till March 2013, which corresponds to the reproduction and post-reproduction seasons of these species. Methods used included line transects and opportunistic search and refuge examinations for sex structure. During social investigations, five major pressures were identified for these species: bush fire, harvesting inside the park, land clearance for agriculture, sapphire mining, and the illegal collection of S. gottlebei. In order to protect these species, educational outreach was undertaken with local communities by producing flyers and organising talks in local villages surrounding the park. In addition reforestation sites in two main villages were identified as a sub-project with training, materials and equipment being supplied to the local community to help this process.

After the completion of the RSG project, the work was continued with local NGO EDENA. Save the Frog events were organised for students, and capacity building for conservation leadership was undertaken with local stakeholders including local community members, Madagascar National Parks agents and local authority members. In addition to this, women’s livelihood improvement activities were established to help empower local women, and beekeeping and vegetable farming projects were created.

Presently the focus of the project is organising more Save the Frog events, and training local stakeholders to become researchers in order to support the long-term research of these species.

The women’s empowerment activities continue, and this now includes business management training so that the women can run the beekeeping and vegetable projects. Combining ecological research and local community involvement to achieve long-term conservation of the critically endangered blue-eyed black lemur
Rufford Small Grant
Sylviane Voalmpeno

The blue-eyed black lemur (Eulemur flavifrons) is unique among non-human primates with its blue eyes; it is also one of the least studied of the diurnal lemurs due to its relatively recent discovery in 1985. The distribution of the species is very restricted, occurring only in the north-western forests of Madagascar with Sahamalaza-Iles Radama National Park (SIRNP) as its main location. Due to the current anthropogenic activities within the park, the lemur is classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List

This project aimed to advance the conservation of the blue-eyed black lemur by combining ecological research with local community involvement. The project activities included lemur and forest habitat surveys, workshop training with park local committees (PLC) and park rangers, and education and outreach with local communities. Seven groups of the blue-eyed black lemur, ranging from 3-8 individuals, were counted and more than 100 plant species were identified during the surveys. Twenty PLCs were trained in forest control and patrol, as well as park regulations and biodiversity data collection. This was done in collaboration with the park management, and Madagascar National Parks. Several activities conducted during community and environment events included the distribution of environmental handbooks to the primary school teachers, environmental quizzes, village clean-ups and radio-broadcasting. Through this project, a new distribution of the Sambirano mouse lemur (Microcebus sambiranonesis) was discovered. After the project, the work will be continued in order to conserve the blue-eyed black lemur and its forest habitat.

The role of fruit bats (Pteropus rufus) in forest regeneration in Madagascar
Second Rufford Small Grant
Dr Ryszard Oleksy and Professor Gareth Jones - University of Bristol

Madagascar has three endangered and endemic species of fruit bat. The largest one, Pteropus rufus,is relatively common and distributed widely in the country. So far 110 plant species have been identified in its diet, includi59 endemic species. This suggests that P. rufus has a very diverse diet, which has enabled it to adapt to areas with vastly differing vegetation types, e.g. dry deciduous forest in the south, littoral forest on the coast, and lowland rain forest in the north-east. This study aimed to determine the efficiency of Malagasy bats in promoting forest regeneration by comparing the germination success of seeds from faecal and ejecta pellets with those of ripe fruits. The seeds were exposed to progressively more natural challenges. Treatments were performed in
conditions ranging from the laboratory, where sterilised seeds were placed on filter paper in a Petri dish, through differently treated soil and finally, in their natural conditions.

Additionally, the gut retention time of the bats (GRT) was determined, and using high resolution GPS tags, the movement and foraging patterns of the Madagascar flying fox in a fragmented landscape was recorded. Findings will illustrate the role of P.rufus in forest regeneration through long distance seed dispersal, habitat preferences and movements across isolated forest fragments. Knowledge about this behaviour in relation to constant disturbance and hunting may help in further conservation actions and assist with the protection of these important Malagasy mammals.

3. Recommendations

3.1. What makes or breaks a successful conservation project
For this session, participants utilised their notes written during the presentations, and from the their own personal experiences, to objectively consider how conservation projects work on the ground in Madagascar, and from this review what makes a successful conservation project. The discussions were grouped under four themes: methods, any difficulties (errors) encountered and lessons learned, impacts and sustainability of the project, and innovations and major successes. The group discussions are summarised below.

There were approaches and methods that were commonly used across projects including: working with associations, training, involvement of community and stakeholders, scientific research, women’s empowerment, and educational outreach events. Successful projects used a combination of different management techniques, with capacity building, stakeholder involvement and alternative livelihood activities being seen as key for success. Any difficulties (errors) encountered and lessons learned Sharing lessons learned is an important part of improving the success of conservation projects. Common issues that were seen as barriers are outlined below:

     Time management was a large issue, as Malagasy time keeping can be difficult when working to tight deadlines, unforeseen difficulties also constrained positive conservation outcomes at times.
     Not sharing data within the conservation community within Madagascar; research is undertaken but not necessarily communicated externally.
     The idea that conservation projects are wealthy and have endless resources.
     It can be difficult and expensive to source equipment and materials in country, or to transport these materials to site when sourced externally.
     The sometimes poor infrastructure within Madagascar can limit project transportation and field-based activities.
     There are limited opportunities to meet other conservation practitioners working in Madagascar and share experiences.

Impacts and sustainability of the project
Overall the projects are/were generally sustainable although this is dependent on funds, the size of the project, the time available and social acceptability. Participants agreed that all the projects provided useful information for creating sustainable conservation approaches, community development, education and conservation. However, changing attitudes is still very challenging, as it takes time to convince local people and implement behaviour change. In terms of measuring the impacts of conservation projects, by reviewing and measuring activities against overall aims before, during and after the project, maximises the effectiveness of any conservation project. However, this process depends on the individual situation, and the environmental, social and economic tools available.

Innovations and major successes
While there was not much innovation seen within the RSG projects, the use of novel equipment (e.g. wildlife acoustic recording and GPS tagging), when partnered with broader scale collaboration ensured the success of the projects. While a variety of projects were presented, those with crosssectorial collaboration - the projects that linked communities, national and international organisations and government bodies, in an integrated approach, were seen as the most successful. It was also noted that by communicating results, methods and experiences, others can learn from the project’s mistakes and successes – and that innovating for the sake of innovating without any thought to the end result is not a good way to approach conservation issues.

3.2. Conservation in Madagascar – the challenges
In this session all participants were asked to think about what they considered to be the top three challenges of working in conservation in Madagascar. Afterwards the group then ranked these according to their importance. By using a group vote, seven challenges were identified:

    1) Working with the community
    2) Behaviour change
    3) Politics in Madagascar
    4) Lack of/insufficient continuous data
    5) Lack of resources
    6) Not enough time
    7) Difficult access to field sites

Participants went back into their groups and talked about the ways in which these challenges can be
addressed. These points were then discussed by the whole group and summarised.

Working with the community

     The needs of the local community need to be addressed as a priority in order to avoid top a down approach.
     It is important to present the project to local communities in way that everyone can understand, education levels are not always high and so using different methods such as radio, music, and film can be effective ways of communicating your message.
     By establishing a local association and making sure that the community is aware of each conservation activity gains trust and ensures community involvement is high. Social meetings such as focus groups are central to this.
     Building capacity within the local community is vital for projects to become sustainable in the long-term.

Behaviour change

     The community needs to understand why there is a need to change in order to adapt; look at why they are doing what they are doing, where they are coming from, look at every aspect of local life that your project could improve.
     Trust is vitally important; taking the time to exchange knowledge and ideas, and how the project can positively impact local livelihoods.
     Involving women is key in behaviour change.

Politics in Madagascar

     Bureaucracy in Madagascar is very high, with change occurring slowly at the national level. At the local level, conservation actions can be much more effective, with local conventions such as the “Dina” (local laws) being used to great effect and often leading to wider policy being reviewed and implemented.
     Local management is an important solution to top down conservation approaches in Madagascar; local communities manage the protected area and oversee conservation activities, for example locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) in marine conservation.

Lack of/insufficient continuous data

     There are many endemic species in Madagascar, however scientific research tends to focus on solely flagship species. There is a need to invest more funds in studying other lesser known species as well as looking at ecosystems as a whole.
     Sharing data is important for pushing forward conservation within Madagascar.

Lack of resources

     Use local resources and communicate within the community.
     Look ahead: one off costs vs cost over time.
     Collaboration and partnership may help to share resources.
     Take advantage of waste management to reduce overexploitation of resources.

Not enough time

     Thorough planning at the beginning of a project is important for making sure priorities are set and that targets are reviewed periodically. This also ensures that the timing of activities is thought about ahead of time.

Difficult access to field sites

     Using local resources can reduce access problems.
     Infrastructure collaboration with big companies is a possible solution.

3.3. Recommendations for Rufford
General comments from attendees included:

     Annual reports could be put on the Rufford website more quickly and made easier to find, so recipients can be contacted – making any publications as accessible as possible.
     The overall reporting process is fine.
     Referees can be difficult to contact in terms of the application process, especially in Madagascar where English is not widely spoken.
     A fourth continuation grant would be very useful, however Rufford are currently reviewing whether a fourth continuation could be replaced by a booster.
     Rufford wanted to know if the technical report could be promoted more: participants responded yes, as the technical reports share more detailed information.

3.4. Workshop Feedback
Overall feedback from the participants was very positive, with attendees commenting on the usefulness of the event for meeting other conservation practitioners in Madagascar and finding out more about their work. A key note was for the next meeting is to schedule it during the dry season, as transportation is much easier during this period.


Eulophiella Lodge
18° 49' 41.7108" S, 48° 25' 53.652" E
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