Issue date: 20 March 2017
Later this month a team of 20 final year conservation students from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) are heading to Madagascar. The team will be working in collaboration with a local non-government organisation (NGO) called SADABE, a partner from Bristol Zoo's world leading Lemur Action plan.
Dr Mark Steer, who is leading this second trip from UWE Bristol, said, “We will travel to Tsinjoarivo a remote spot in a spine of rainforest in Madagascar on the edge of the central plateau where we will work with local communities through links developed by SABADE. I wanted to ensure that our students recognise that the importance of working with local communities is an integral component in successful conservation. SABADE has set up a great working relationship with the communities around Tsinjoarivo.
“The group will survey the biodiversity and environmental conditions in the area with each student making a special study of one species group or environmental variable that will include work on chameleons, reptiles, birds, soil and water.”
Jonny Cooper, third year Wildlife Conservation student, said, “I'm really looking forward to this trip. Having the chance to go to Madagascar was a big deciding point when I was choosing which university to attend a couple of years back. I am sure it will bring some difficult challenges such as transporting our equipment across difficult terrain in hot and humid weather. But it is an amazing opportunity to put the theory of conservation into practice on the ground in very unfamiliar territory.
“We will be working with students from Antananarivo University and this, alongside the connection with SABADE, will give us all the chance to develop some useful contacts and extend our networks whilst working on a real project. My project will focus recording species of birds in the area. We will ring the birds and free them back into the wild after making notes.”
Dr Steer said that the students will also be looking at the biodiversity of forest fragments. Around ten years ago some replanting and regeneration took place that has not gone as fast as hoped. He said, “Regenerating deforested areas in equatorial climates is not straight forward so we will be making local surveys and hope to come up with some recommendations that contribute towards improving the regeneration of the rainforest.
“The students will also lay the foundations for a school as many of the local children live too remotely and have little or no access to any education. Last year a group of students built a fish pond to help diversify food production. We feel that it is important to ensure that we give something back to the local community at the same time as doing our wildlife conservation work.”
Isaac Hogan is currently studying for an MSc Wildlife Conservation. He talked about his experience of the trip last year. Isaac said, “It was such a culture shock but in a good way, no Wi-Fi, absolutely no infrastructure, everything you expect when you sign up to study wildlife conservation. I was struck by the impact of the deforestation for rice growing but when you actually visit places like Madagascar it is immediately apparent that the people who live in rain forested areas have very few options.
“A big part of the trip that was memorable for me was the brilliant team work when we dug a fish pond and helped to instigate more sustainable methods of food production, enabling the local guys to use the new fishery as a source of income.
“The trip has really spurred me on to take my study further and I'm currently waiting on funding so that I can continue with the bird survey I started so I hope to be joining the team again this year.”
The student team departs for Madagascar on March 30.
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