We’ve been working with Madagasikara Voakajy for years and had the chance to meet many of their inspiring conservationists during the expedition.
Parphin, Doré and Célestin – Patrollers
An important part of protecting Mangabe New Protected Area is done by local patrollers who are in charge of reporting any incidents that might have taken place in the area. They report any instances of slash and burn agriculture, mining, wood logging and forest fire that they have encountered on their bi-monthly patrol. Patrollers also inventory any rare or unusual species and send their report to Madagasikara Voakajy who then put in place specific actions for their conservation.
Parphin, Doré and Célestin have been patrollers for the past eight years. They all recognise the importance of having the forest nearby and explain that they’ve seen other areas become impacted by deforestation.
Doré noticed that the forest cover in Mangabe was decreasing quickly due to slash and burn agriculture in previous years but that this trend slowed down following the intervention of Madagasikara Voakajy. He appreciated the support from the NGO and decided to get involved by becoming a patroller.
Célestin reported seeing a change in the local communities since becoming a patroller. He noticed that people were now moving away from using the slash and burn technique and were switching to more sustainable practices.
Voahirana – Mangabe Project Leader
Voahirana leads the Mangabe-Ranomena-Sasarotra project, the largest protected area that Madagasikara Voakajy manage. An agronomist by training, she also studied conservation and land management. She decided to move away from the busy capital Antananarivo to lead the office in Moramanga.
Voahirana is passionate and always keen to learn new skills. She loves lemurs and strongly believes in the importance of working with local communities. That’s why she is heavily involved with the Youth for Lemurs programme which raises awareness of the importance of lemurs as seed dispersers but also teaches young people sustainable farming techniques as an alternative livelihood to reduce lemur hunting and slash and the burn agriculture which destroys their habitat.
Jacyntha – Lemurs Project Officer and Communications Officer
Lemurs are Jacyntha’s first passion! Her dad is a Park Agent at Andasibe National Park and so she grew up surrounded by lemurs. She managed to turn this passion into a job by becoming a Project Officer for Madagasikara Voakajy three years ago.
She strongly believes that lemurs need to be protected because they are under extreme pressure and are threatened by habitat destruction. These species can’t live anywhere else than in the forest and so preserving their habitat is crucial. This is why Jacyntha’s team is conducting surveys in the forest to assess the population size of the different lemur species found in the area.
Working with communities is an important part of Jacyntha’s role as she explains that it is essential to share the results of her lemur research with local people to engage them in the conservation process. An important part of the lemur project also involves working with youth in Mangabe to raise awareness of the importance of lemurs.
Julie – Director
Julie got involved with Madagasikara Voakajy as a student working on bats in 2003 and became the Director of the NGO in 2011. It’s the second time that Julie has been involved in a Chester Zoo expedition with the first one having focussed mostly on surveying the golden mantella frog.
She really enjoys seeing the impact that Madagasikara Voakajy’s education programme is having on local communities and especially children. She explains that when she returns to visit those communities many months after first visiting, the children always come up with songs, dances and poems that incorporate the conservation messages that they’ve been learning about.
Raphali – Species & Conservation Programme Manager
Raphali has been working with Madagasikara Voakajy for over a decade and is now in charge of coordinating the research on species significant for conservation such as the golden mantella frog and various lemur species.
He grew up in a small village which was near a forest where he used to see lemurs. At that time he didn’t have any idea of their importance for the local ecosystem. After studying biology at university he learned about the uniqueness of Madagascar’s biodiversity and became passionate about conserving it.
During his degree, Raphali had a special interest in birds but an opportunity arose to work with Madagasikara Voakajy to study chameleons and he decided to take it. He ended up loving chameleons so much that he became a chameleon expert and even managed to find one of the rarest species in Madagascar!
Eddie – Golden Mantella Project Officer
Eddie started working with Madagasikara Voakajy in 2012 and is now leading the golden mantella frog research in Mangabe New Protected Area. He has been working with various staff members from the zoo on this project, tracking and marking the frogs to get a better idea of the population size and the ecology of the species.
Eddie didn’t have access to any nearby forests when he was a child as his village was surrounded by eucalyptus plantations. The only frog he encountered regularly at the time was an introduced species so he grew up without seeing any native species.
During his degree at university, he became passionate about all those frogs that he hadn’t known existed when he was younger. When a job became available to work on golden mantella frogs for Magasikara Voakajy he didn’t hesitate, even though he had never seen a mantella before!
Félixon – Field Assistant
Félixon used to poach lemurs but decided to stop when he discovered that their populations were declining in the area and that some were threatened with extinction. He is now helping Madagasikara Voakajy’s researchers to find lemurs and monitor them. He started as a forest patroller because he wanted to engage local people on the issues associated with deforestation and encourage local communities to protect the forest.