Colour is used in fundamentally distinct ways by the different taxonomic groups of reptiles found in the Mahamavo forest. Colour-change in chameleons is depicted as being involved in crypticity, but is really primarily used for communicating intraspecifically. There is colour variability in both Oustalet’s and Angel’s chameleons found in this region. Experiments can be devised to research specific facets of communication and the role of colour. There are also three species of Leaf-tail geckos that really do use colour and colour change primarily for crypticity. One is a bark mimic (Uroplatus henkeli), a second is a twig mimic (Uroplatus guentheri) and the third is a dead-leaf mimic (Uroplatus ebenaui). Experiments can be generated to look at the role of colour-change in these responses as well as the degree to which background matching is occurring.
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 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.
Facilities are basic (tents, bucket showers, long drop toilets). The site has no phone signal or wifi.