Part time (10-30 hrs/wk)
Short-Term (few weeks/months)
The enchanting Island of Madagascar is famous for its bizarre assemblage of wildlife, its dramatic landscapes and its unique and varied ecosystems. No other island or place on earth boasts such a combination of species richness and endemism! For example, every native terrestrial mammal species found on this huge island is found nowhere else on earth! Most famous of all of its inhabitants though are the lemurs, primitive prosimians, whose name, derived from the Roman Lemures, meaning 'spirits of the dead' alludes to the country's ancient cultural traditions.
There are currently 103 recognised Lemur species on the island, all of which are believed to have evolved from a single colonising ancestor, who reached isolated Madagascar some 50million years ago! Sadly however, recent assessments made by the IUCN now show that the Lemurs are now the most endangered group of vertebrates in the world, with 94 species being classified as threatened with extinction! However Lemurs are not the only group of animals in need of help! The Amphibian fauna of Madagascar is considered to be one of the greatest on Earth, with 238 recognised species and with another 182 candidate species currently awaiting classification! Madagascar has sadly already lost over 90% of its original forest cover though, and this has put increased pressure on all of the endangered species who live here.
Madagascar is also the centre of diversity for chameleons, with almost half of this old world fauna being found exclusively on the island! Including both the largest, and smallest species in the world! In Madagascar, there are weird, unique and wonderful forms of life everywhere that you look, and the more you discover about each of them, the more amazing they become! This sentiment was summed up perfectly by the 18th century French doctor and explorer, Joseph Philibert Commerson in a letter to his tutor in Paris:
"Of Madagascar I can announce to naturalists that this is truly their promised land. Here nature seems to have created a special sanctuary whither she seems to have withdrawn to experiment with designs different from any she has created elsewhere. At every step, one meets more remarkable and marvellous forms of life"
Despite these tantalising early accounts, Madagascar is still an island shrouded in mystery, and remains relatively un-studied to this day! Myths and legends abound in Madagascar, and remain deeply embedded in the collective imagination, adding to the sense of magic surrounding the island!
So journey with us to our current location in Northern Madagascar, an area which represents a transitional habitat between the floral communities of both the East and West, an area renowned for its high species diversity and high levels of endemism! One of the most threatened forest habitats in Madagascar - The seasonal humid forests of the Sambirano biome.
The Frontier-Madagascar wildlife conservation project is currently based on the 'scented island' of Nosy Be, famous for its vanilla, ylang-ylang and mangoes! The island is home to three species of lemur: Black lemur, Hawk's Sportive lenur and Clair's Mouse lemur, as well as six species of chameleons. Whilst on the wildlife conservation project you’ll discover a huge variety of Madagascar's exotic species, as you trek through rugged and remote regions of this hugely exciting island. Working alongside other dedicated volunteers, you’ll help to monitor the distribution and abundance of many groups of animal, and help assess how they are responding to human induced stress factors such as deforestation, habitat fragmentation and other forms of anthropogenic disturbance.
On this project you will directly contribute to important research, aiming to inform local government about how to manage the remaining forests and conserve their invaluable natural assets. You will learn an array of surveying techniques and have a chance to contribute to the to the local community through our education outreach days. But of course it is not all work, and after a hard days trekking and exploration you can always take advantage of the camp’s beach front location and relax on the golden beaches, snorkel in the crystal clear waters or play football against the local village!
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WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?
Help conserve species found nowhere else on earth
The projects aims are to contribute to the current understanding of the local environment and help monitor the spectacular array of wildlife found here. Madagascar has been isolated for over 84 million years, creating a biodiversity resource of global significance, with over 80% of species found nowhere else on earth! Nosy Be's fauna includes three species of lemur, including the diminutive mouse lemur (Microcebus), the smallest primate on earth! Reptiles include rare turtles, snakes, geckos, including the superbly camouflaged leaf-tailed gecko's (Uroplatus), skinks and an array of chameleons.
There is spectacular bird life on the island, with the highest levels of endemism of any similar sized area in the world, as well as some elusive tenrecs – a group of small mammals that are incredibly diverse, filling niches in aquatic, terrestial, arboreal and fossorial environments, and resembling everything from otters to hedgehogs.
Desertification & hunting
Madagascar's human population has doubled since 1960, leading to increased deforestation and overgrazing, which in turn has caused massive soil erosion and desertification. Only one tenth of the original forests remain and this situation is rapidly deteriorating as the human population continues to grow. The forests are cut down to provide nutrients and land for agriculture, as well as being used as hunting grounds in the more remote and poor communities.
Empower Malagasy communities
You will be assessing the local flora and fauna of the region through biodiversity surveys of mammals, birds, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians, with the aim of informing and educating the local government and communities. It is our goal to leave a lasting impact in the region and to help the local communities appreciate and conserve their local environment and avoid the pitfalls of exploitation. You will interact with the community by providing environmental education days. This will enable you to evaluate the impact of the human population on the wildlife and help to develop ideas allowing the community to lead more sustainable lifestyles.
WHAT WILL I BE DOING?
The main aims of the programme are to assess the biodiversity in this little-studied area and compare different habitat types and the effects of human disturbance, which may take several forms. We hope to gain insights into how each species or family of animals is responding to human induced habitat modification and other anthropogenic stresses. It is our aim to discover which species are able to adapt and cope with human interaction and which species may be intolerant to any form of disturbance. By helping us to find out which species are most vulnerable to human disturbance, we can help design specific conservation action plans for better conservation management in the future and inform the relevant national and local entities with responsibility for managing the forests.
Our current projects involve carrying out extensive surveys of the local mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians that exist in the surrounding forests. These surveys are conducted in a variety of habitat types, ranging from primary forest to plantation type habitats along a gradient of human disturbance. Our survey techniques range from setting up canopy or pitfall traps, active searches during both the day and night and behavioural surveys to collecting morphometric data on chameleons and snakes and learning how to record birds by identifying their calls. In addition, we will also be mapping vegetation and assessing disturbance and resource use in the area to build up an accurate picture. For more details on our specific projects and methods as well as our results so far please see our most recent science report.
If this is your first time doing conservation work, don't worry! It will only take a short while for you to feel totally at home on camp and confident with the science work. Although the work is intense, you'll find that living in such a beautiful and inaccessible environment alongside friends who share your passion for conservation will be the experience of a lifetime!
You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages, usually between 18 and 25, although no age limit applies, and experience, who all share a passion about travelling in developing countries and saving endangered life. Your staff will be young, friendly individuals who are highly experienced in their field and many may have volunteered on a Frontier project earlier in their career.