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Conservation Research

SEED has been working in the Sainte Luce area of southeast Madagascar for over 15 years, operating from a permanent research camp on the edge of the littoral forest on various conservation research projects. With a dedicated team of researchers, Malagasy field guides and spotters, our SEED Conservation Research Programme (SCRP) has carried out extensive research into this area of extreme biodiversity, and worked with the local community on conservation initiatives.

Current research areas

Herpetofauna surveys

Carrying out research into reptiles and amphibians within the Sainte Luce forest and swamp areas. Regular transects of swamps looking for chameleons, frogs, geckos and snakes are helping us to build a better picture of the populations of these animals in Sainte Luce. Research contributions in this area include using genetic tools to ascertain the true identities of the herpetofauna found in the region, and a range extension of a Critically Endangered gecko species.

Anosy mouse lemur microcebus tanosiNocturnal lemur surveys

Monitoring the population size and distribution of the three nocturnal lemur species found in Sainte Luce, Microcebus tanosi (Anosy mouse lemur), Cheirogaleus thomasi (Thomas’ dwarf lemur) and Avahi meridionalis (Southern woolly lemur). All three species are now classified as Endangered by the IUCN, and as such more research is urgently needed. SCRP is also working with Project Ala to establish biodiversity corridors between the forest fragments of Sainte Luce to protect these species from further decline.

Flying fox population studies

The Malagasy flying fox (Pteropus rufus) is an endemic fruit megabat species, one colony of which lives in the Sainte Luce forest. Since 2016 our conservation team and volunteers have been making regular visits to monitor population size and ascertain feeding habits of this important pollinator species. This project also includes community education, ecotourism and efforts to enhance community ownership of bat conservation efforts.

Mahampy wetland swamp aerial photoWetland health

Working with SEED’s Sustainable Livelihoods project, Mahampy, SCRP has been carrying out surveys of mahampy reed wetlands in Sainte Luce to study the health of the reedbeds, and community usage patterns. This groundbreaking research combines traditional quadrant surveys with aerial photography using drone technology.

Freshwater fish

Carrying out the first ever fish survey of the rivers and mahampy swamps of Sainte Luce. There are a wide variety of endangered endemic fish in Madagascar and this project looks to collate a species list for the area and provide data to evaluate the health of Sainte Luce’s wetlands. To achieve this we will trap with nets and bottles (harmlessly), investigate local fisherman’s catches, and send samples for DNA analysis.

Previous research areas

Mouse lemur research

Between 2017-18, our conservation research team conducted extensive research into the species of Microcebus (mouse lemur) found in the Sainte Luce area. At the time an undescribed species, it was later confirmed to be Microcebus tanosi, a species on which our team was able to contribute extensive knowledge on distribution, abundance and behavioural knowledge.

Palm species

Six of the ten native palm species found within the littoral forest of Sainte Luce are threatened with extinction (IUCN, 2012). During our time in Sainte Luce, our researchers have conducted several studies of palm species including Dypsis saintelucei and Beccariophoenix madagascariensis, contributing to the scientific literature on these rare palm species, which are also important to the local communities for various uses.

Anosy day gecko (Phelsuma antanosy)

For two years ending in 2015, the SCRP team intensively studied Phelsuma antanosy, the Anosy day gecko. A Critically Endangered species, endemic to just one region of Madagascar, there are estimated to be less than 10,000 individuals remaining. Research included behavioural studies, population density and diet studies.

turtle-madagascar.jpgTurtle conservation

In 2017-18 we conducted pilot community-led conservation research on turtles nesting in Sainte Luce. Targeting Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta), which are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List, the project facilitated community-led conservation whilst also monitoring nesting populations and hatchling success.

Lemur behaviour

Over a four year period our research team monitored the behaviour of the only diurnal lemur species found in Sainte Luce, Eulemur collaris (Collared brown lemur). Survey data gave insights into the seasonal variation of lemur activities, feeding habits, and movement patterns.