• Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

The Malagasy giant hognose snake, Leioheterodon madagascariensis, is Madagascar’s largest lamprophiid snake, attaining sizes greater than 1.5m in length. This species has been documented engaging in ritual combat and active nest defence, and a preliminary investigation suggests that the behavioural ecology of L. madagascariensis is more complex than previously thought. For this project all observations will be recorded using a GPS receiver and all animals encountered will be captured, measured, and weighed. Furthermore, individuals captured within a designated research area will then be microchipped to allow individual identification. Other novel methods may also be employed to investigate the daily activity patterns of chipped individuals in order to understand how these snakes interact with each other and the environment. All data collected will be visualised and analysed utilising GIS software.

Extended Dissertation Summary

Madagascar Mahamavo Research Objectives

Madagascar boasts some of the most spectacular biodiversity in the world: lemurs, tenrecs, baobabs and over half of all known chameleon species. Much of this biodiversity is endemic. The Operation Wallacea surveys are completing research on the dry forests and associated wetlands of Mahamavo in the northwest of Madagascar.

Madagascar has declared 17% of its land as protected areas, but much of this land is already severely degraded, so the actual area of land under protection is much smaller. An alternative approach to assigning protected area status and prohibiting usage, is to develop community managed areas such as Mahamavo, where there is a mosaic of protected and managed areas. DTZ, the German Technical Support Agency has established a series of community managed forests in the Mahamavo area that appear to be successful and may form the basis for conservation and improving livelihoods in other parts of Madagascar. The Opwall teams here are monitoring how the forest structure and biodiversity in these community managed forests are changing over time to identify whether this management strategy can provide a viable alternative to national parks in terms of protecting biodiversity.

The dry forests around Mahamavo have exceptional diversity with two species of diurnal lemur and another five to six species of nocturnal lemurs, two spectacular species of chameleons, three known species of leaf-tailed geckos, and many endemic birds. In addition to the forest work, the Opwall teams are also documenting the biodiversity value of the adjacent wetlands with a view to getting this area upgraded to Ramsar status (a Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention).

  • Develop an independent research project and write a formal proposal
  • Attend lectures and field bases practicals on Madagascan ecology and conservation
  • Learn how to identify, catch and handle the hognose snake
  • Learn how to microchip and track individuals
  • Collect data on the behavioural ecology and habitat usage patterns of each individual
  • Learn how to use a GPS, smart phones for data collection and GIS software
  • Learn how to organise and analyse large data sets
  • Opwall fee
  • Cost of international flights into and out of Antananarivo
  • Cost of internal travel to and from the start and end point of the expedition, plus any hotels you might require. This costs around £269 or $390 on average. Extra nights’ accommodation in Antananarivo costs around £26 or $38.
  • Visa costs of €25 (30 days) or €35 (30-60 days) to be paid in cash on arrival in Madagascar.
  • Park entrance fees – £20 or $29.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified. Visa costs are all in EUR.

Climate
In Madagascar it is the dry season so it is hot during the day (temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius) with extremely little chance of rain. During the evenings the temperature does drop to around 18 degrees Celsius with occasional cold spells getting as low as 14 degrees Celsius.

Fitness level required
Moderate. This project does not require walking long distances but if you wish to part-take in other surveys they can be long distances, and although the terrain is relatively flat you will be walking mostly on sand.

Creature comforts
Facilities are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi.

Locations

  • Madagascar
  • Mariarano
  • Antafiameva
  • Matsedroy

Want to get involved with this project?

Preparation

Want to get involved with this project?

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