Posted February 18, 2019 in Africa
Colchester Zoo’s Action for the Wild was a member of the AEECL, the Lemur Conservation Association, between 2004 and 2014 and reinstated its membership in 2017. AEECL is a charitable NGO run by a consortium of 30 European zoos, working for Madagascar’s highly endangered lemurs, through cooperation with the Malagasy people.
The AEECL aims to protect the habitat and ecosystems within the Sahamalaza National Park, to monitor and increase lemur populations and be a strong conservation ambassador for the area. A vital part of the work of the AEECL is to monitor the lemur numbers and research the local ecosystems to have a better understanding of the pressures faced by these habitats. Local villagers are employed as Research Assistants who are all trained to use GPS tracking devices and record lemur numbers, behaviours and patterns. The AEECL has a long established research station in Ankarafa and the construction of a new building at the Research Camp has begun. The foundations are now complete and a water supply system is in place. In total, 7,500 bricks are estimated for the wall construction but there are still 2,500 bricks to be made.
The AEECL believes that supporting the local communities is vital to ensuring the future for the wildlife and forests of the Sahamalaza peninsula and a good proportion of staff time and funds are utilised to improve the education system of the communities local to their work. Throughout 2018, the AEECL provided salary support for community teachers and awarded scholarships to high school students. To build greater bonds with the local villages, the AEECL look to support people in their everyday lives. From 1st to 3rd June 2018, the AEECL organised three school meals within three villages around Sahamalaza Park. In total, 200 children were fed during these school meals.
On the 30th August, 111 people came to help with road levelling. Once the road was graded, several cars have been able to make to the journey to Antafiabe and AEECL can now use this road to transport building materials, which is vital for the construction of a new school. The construction of the new school building in Antafiabe began in August 2018. By the end of the year, the walls have been constructed and the slabs have been made; about 65% of the work is done.
Unfortunately forest fires are common throughout Madagascar and can cause much devastation so the AEECL are pro-active in preventing the spread of these fires and are passionate about educating local communities about the importance of environmental protection for the surrounding ecosystems. To help prevent the spread of fire outbreaks, the AEECL joins forces with local villagers, local government and other organisations annually to establish firebreaks around the forests. These firebreaks are vital to protect the forests and the wildlife within. Between the 19th – 21st August 2018, 860 people participated in the creation of the firebreak and about 30% of them were children. Teachers from Befotaka and Maromandia also participated. Two new villages including Anjango and Andravaravina villages joined during the firebreak work. Over the two days, they managed to establish 7 km of forest firebreak.
By investing in local communities through education, resource management and communication, this helps ensure the communities of today can forge a safe haven for wildlife tomorrow.