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Quarters for Conservation: Rainforest Trust

One of a three-part blog series on the 2018/2019 Quarters for Conservation programs at Zoo Atlanta.

Fossas are a unique carnivore found only on the island of Madagascar. Roughly 80 percent of their natural habitat has been destroyed due to deforestation and forest fires. Currently, there are only about 2,500 fossas left in the wild, which means they are becoming endangered. To help save fossas and the many other endangered animals that call Madagascar home, Zoo Atlanta has teamed up with The Rainforest Trust. The Rainforest Trust is creating a protected area called the Lost Rainforest Reserve. Establishing this 3,460-acre reserve will protect the fragile habitat and ensure the long-term survival of fossa and the many other endangered species found nowhere else in the world.

One of the main goals for this project is to get the community members to fully support the conservation efforts taking place in the area. About a year ago, the very first meetings took place between the local project manager and assistant with representatives for the local communities. The participants in the meeting agreed to: 1) put out any bush fires that they may spot near the forest; 2) if wood is needed for house construction, they must talk to someone at the project site to ensure that they are not near the forest boundaries; and 3) not disturb any of the animals in the forest. After these initial meetings took place, the local partner conducted more specific meetings segments of the community, including women and children. The women requested more materials to use in classrooms in order to educate kids about the importance of the forest. Currently, they are continuing to educate the local communities about the Lost Forest biodiversity, and train local forest guards and guides on how to observe and track the flora and fauna with use of GPS points, the different taxa in the region and the importance of camera trap use.

Fairly recently, the partners in the area took an expedition through the southern part of the Ivohibory forest. While there, they checked their camera traps and found evidence/photos of fossas in the region! Previously, they had not been formally recorded, even though villagers had mentioned that they existed at the proposed Lost Forest site. They haven’t been spotted at all yet in the northern part of the forest, so the fact that they were caught on camera in the southern part of the forest was quite exciting!

Another goal for this project is to reduce the risk of deadly forest fires to the reserve. The Rainforest Trust, in partnership with MICET (Madagascar Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments), is working to establish firebreaks to protect the forest. They are also working to train forest guards to begin patrols of the area to ensure that no illegal activities are occurring.

Learn more about this exciting project here.
Kelly Daire
Keeper I, Mammals
and Zoo Atlanta Quarters for Conservation Champion for The Rainforest Trust, with Marissa Max of The Rainforest Trust
(Photo courtesy of Rainforest Trust/MICET)

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