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SEED Madagascar

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Project Microcebus

Conducting extensive scientific research, supported by strengthening local conservation and community engagement, to enhance the long-term survival prospects of a newly discovered candidate species of Microcebus mouse lemur.

Summary

  • Status: current
  • Date: April 2017 – March 2018
  • Target population: Community of Sainte Luce
  • Location: Sainte Luce, Anosy region, southeast Madagascar
  • Project partners: Local forest management committees, local community, and organisations involved in conservation in the Sainte Luce area

Why is it important?

SEED Madagascar’s Conservation Research Programme (SCRP) recently made a significant discovery within one of the Sainte Luce forest fragments, in which a new candidate species of Microcebus mouse lemur was identified. Yet to be formally classified, further research is now needed to understand population abundance and distribution. Increasing available data will allow SEED Madagascar to support the species to gain an IUCN Red List Status. This discovery is significant for conservation in the area, as it represents an opportunity to safeguard one of the last remaining forests of its kind, along with its rich and highly endemic fauna and flora.

It is predicted that over the next 60 years a further 80% of the southern littoral forest will be lost.

Temple et al., 2012

Discovering a candidate species, that is anticipated to achieve an IUCN Red List Status of at least "Endangered", has serious impacts on conservation of the littoral forest. The S6 and S7 forest fragments in Sainte Luce are amongst the largest and most intact remaining in the region, however as unprotected areas, they are currently being degraded and diminished without regulation or mitigation policies in place. The new species discovery will present the opportunity to support the protection of these forests.

What we're doing

Mouse lemurs (genus Microcebus) are found across each of the Sainte Luce forest fragments but their wider distribution is unclear. SEED’s dedicated research team along with the SCRP volunteers have been, and will continue to be, instrumental in understanding more about this elusive species. By collecting data on the species distribution and abundance, its area of occupancy and population size can be estimated. To calculate the population estimates of the candidate species of Microcebus, it is critical to determine that multiple species do not coexist in the Sainte Luce littoral forest. Trapping and the genetic analysis of tissue samples will occur in all forest fragments. This will ascertain whether more than one species occupies the littoral forest and support the achievement of an IUCN Red List Status. The dissemination of these results will promote the species as a flagship species, highlighting the conservation priority of the littoral forests of Sainte Luce. SCRP staff and volunteers will promote the conservation of the Sainte Luce form of Microcebus mouse lemur and the littoral forest through environmental celebrations in the community, and education sessions in the highly-popular conservation club run in schools across Sainte Luce. Further conservation action, involving the proposed construction of two habitat corridors between isolated forest remnants, will be carried out by the SCRP team with support from the community. Linking isolated populations not only increases the amount of available habitat and resources, but also reduces the risk of local population extinctions through reconnecting isolated gene pools.