Coquerel’s sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) are one of >100 species of lemur in the world. Over the last half century, P. coquereli have experienced a decline of >50% due to habitat fragmentation and restriction, and are currently classified as endangered (IUCN, 2018). Despite this, the species are relatively abundant in the Mahamavo forests, providing the opportunity to study their ecology in the wild. This project will aim to study the demographic composition of P. coquereli populations, as well as their spatial ecology, to gain an understanding of how this species is using the forests in our study area. To do this, data collection will focus on topics such as group size, habitat use, and the possible effects of anthropogenic influence on ranging patterns. These data can eventually be used to inform management strategies for P. coquereli and provide a baseline for future more in-depth behavioural studies.
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 carrying out long term monitoring surveys in the adjacent wetlands, which have recently been given Ramsar status (a Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention).
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 requires you to walk long distances, and although the terrain is relatively flat you will be walking mostly on sand which can be tiring.
Facilities are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi.