Two of Rainbow Tours travel consultants have worked closely with conservation organisations in Africa and believe that these projects are helping to make a real difference to species survival. At the same time these efforts create jobs for local people, often in remote rural areas, where work is hard to come by. In part one Rachel Dobb tells us about her experience studying in Madagascar.
Rachel Dobb on MADAGASCAR
“I lived and studied in Andasibe for nine months as part of my degree. I was working with an inspirational NGO (non-governmental organisation) called Mitsinjo, and helped with their conservation work to protect the Greater Bamboo Lemur Prolemur simus), which is found in only two of Madagascar’s national parks – Ranomafana and Andringitra. This species is classified as critically endangered on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red list and it’s estimated that only about 300 mature individuals are left in the wild, with an estimated decline of at least 25% over the next 9 years. These numbers are shockingly low, but we were very excited as there had been sightings in unprotected areas around Torotorofotsy and Mantadia near where Mitsinjo is based.
The project obtains behavioural, ecological and genetic data that is used to develop and implement large scale conservation management plans. Often, collecting this data requires long hours in the field, so our team of researchers, students and guides camped inside the National Park for months at a time, working in the early hours when the lemurs are most active. The research looks at issues such as whether unprotected areas need to be protected, what habitat features specific lemurs require and what can be done to stop the destruction of habitats that are essential to a specific lemur species. Data collection methods often rely on the use of expensive equipment like radio-tracking collars.
Tourism provides vital funds to support the work of Mitsinjo and similar research projects through the entrance fees that are paid to the national parks by each visitor. The president of Mitsinjo allocates the money raised each year to worthy projects and scientific studies. Most of these projects are locally based. As well as generating hard cash for projects, NGOs like Mitsinjo also provide jobs for local people and give the guides a sense of ownership over their local environment and a duty to protect it. Everyone at Mitsinjo has a job they wouldn’t have without tourism, and the genuine desire to protect the forest and its wildlife is clear.”