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Update from the field: Rainforest Trust

I’m Kelly Daire from the Mammal Team, and I’m the Quarters for Conservation Champion for Rainforest Trust. Rainforest Trust is one of the three projects supported in the 2018-2019 program year of Quarters for Conservation, which sends 25 cents of every Zoo admission to programs for wildlife. I’m excited to share an update from the field from Marissa Max, Corporate Giving Coordinator for Rainforest Trust.

From Marissa Max:

When Rainforest Trust identifies a new project site opportunity, we look at numerous requirements to determine if it will fit our mission and goals. Three of these include: 1) number of threatened or endangered species from the IUCN Red List that we can help protect, and whether the species have protection elsewhere, 2) how will the project site impact local communities in a positive way, and, 3) will the project site make a positive impact on the planet as a whole. The Lost Forest of Madagascar meets all of these requirements.

In order for the Lost Forest of Madagascar project to succeed, we truly need the support of local community members in the region. This is why our local partner’s initial goals have consisted of hosting community meetings and getting human resources in place to protect the forest. Recently, a meeting was conducted with the community at Esifotse and the top representatives from Ivohibe and Analavoka, as well as the Regional Director of Environment and Forest Ecology and the Regional Director of Rural Development. During the meeting, the Lost Forest of Madagascar project details were discussed, such as the implementation plan, importance of the site, process for protection, creation of jobs for locals, duration of the project, security, and more. Rather than simply fencing off the project site and calling it protected, Rainforest Trust and our local partner understand the importance of insuring the community members are on board with a plan that works for them, too. One of the community’s main concerns was whether they could still keep cattle near the property, as cattle are essential for their livelihood. They came to an understanding where the community members can occasionally lead them into the forest to have access to water, but will keep them from grazing or destroying the rainforest. After these discussions, the leaders in attendance seemed to better understand the project’s importance as well, and how it will benefit their communities.

Our local partner in Madagascar is also working to define a management plan for the protected area. This is about 25 percent complete at the moment, and is expected to be completed in December 2020. It takes a long time to construct the necessary infrastructure and train teams of people to protect the area. They have begun to build a few buildings near the Protected Area Headquarters, as well as a Protected Area Ranger’s Station. The Conservation Center is expected to be completed by December 2019, which will help with the continuous biodiversity studies that are being performed in the Lost Forest.

One of the other major first steps for the Lost Forest project is to conduct biodiversity studies over a five-year period of time. This will help scientists to determine any rare or endangered species who live within the project site. In 2016, an initial rapid biodiversity study was conducted, which revealed at least one new species of mouse lemur, as well as variations in genetic make-up for many others. Genetic information will be taken on all species in the area for this reason, but also to assess how long the forest has been isolated.

Rainforest Trust is honored to partner with Zoo Atlanta’s Quarters for Conservation project in order to protect the Lost Forest of Madagascar, and secure a safe home for the vulnerable fossa. It is important for the visitors of the Zoo to learn about conservation issues around the globe, and know that they can have a real impact in saving acres of rainforest. The fossa is a lesser-known species for many people, so the fact that guests can learn more about how to protect them is crucial. We truly appreciate the support of organizations like Zoo Atlanta and their visitors in ensuring that this project is soon fully funded and the Lost Forest is protected in perpetuity.

Thanks for your continued support of conservation partnerships at Zoo Atlanta. Remember to vote at the Quarters for Conservation kiosk next time you’re at the Zoo!
Kelly Daire
Keeper I, Mammals

Photo credit: MICET


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