The INFRAGECO (inference, fragmentation, genomics and conservation) project aims at understanding the origins and long-term consequences of habitat loss and fragmentation in Madagascar. To do that research activities are carried out in different regions of Madagascar and on different species. At the same time the field work teams are constantly in contact with local guides, cooks, villagers living around the forests where the work is carried out.
In addition to field work our teams also aim to discuss conservation with all the people that are involved in our work, directly and indirectly. And we also set up activities towards Malagasy children. By doing that in small towns which are both close and far from the forests where lemurs live we hope to raise awareness on biodiversity in Madagascar. Through pictures, maps and games, the team organized an interactive afternoon with the children of the primary and secondary public school of Ampanefena (in the North-Eastern Madagascar) where the team rents a flat that serves as base camp for field missions.
The team talked with children divided by age in three groups: 4 to 7-year-old (Ferdinand); 7 to 11-year-old (Samsia and Emmanuel, ex-student from the University of Mahajanga) and 13 to 15-year-old (with Zarlina and Tantely, current and ex-student from the University of Mahajanga, respectively).
During this interactive day general notions about the role of forest as habitat for lemurs were introduced. The children who mainly live in the town of Ampanefena became more aware that lemurs need the forest to feed, rest and sleep and that forests need lemurs to grow thanks to seed dispersal, for instance.
We focused on the amazing lemur diversity (more than 100 taxa recognized), stressing that it was endemic to Madagascar. We discussed biodiversity through showing how lemurs could be different in size, in their nocturnal or diurnal habits, on their ground or tree locomotion habits, and on whether they preferred humid, dry or bamboo foresst as habitats.
In very little time the youngest children were able to recognize all species, their habitat and their location on the national map. Most did not know that their country had so many species and did not know that other lemurs lived in other regions of their country (which despite being an island is bigger than most European countries).
In terms of conservation, they demonstrated a rather good knowledge of the main local anthropogenic threats to lemurs and their habitats (fire, poaching and logging)
Thanks to the reference book “Lemurs of Madagascar” (3rd edition) guide (our Bible!), the teenagers gained additional knowledge on species distribution maps and intra-genus species diversity.
At the end of the day it was extremely rewarding to see that several were attracted by our work. Some of the oldest students showed particular interest for Primatology studies, asking information on the path they should pursue at the University. It was crucial to benefit from the help of our male and female students who demonstrated that it was possible to become aa primatologist in Madagascar. Who knows, maybe one day, some of them will be part of the new generation of Primatologist in Madagascar, and may contact us for an internship, or a collaboration.