Environmental education can help to bring awareness to conservation issues and the amazing work being done to address them. The overall aim of environmental education is to provide people with the knowledge, skills and desire to support conservation actions and adopt their own pro-environmental behaviours.
My project will be based in South East Madagascar in the Tsitongambarika Protected Area (TGK) which is made up of 60,000 ha of humid lowland and mid-altitude forest. The project will take place over three months and will be based in four schools in the villages of Iaboakoho, Antsotso, Androzato, and Anakony, all of which are located alongside Tsitongambarika. The project will be in line with the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Lemur Action Plan for Tsitongambarika which emphasises the importance of environmental education programs. I will also be working with Asity Madagascar, a non-governmental conservation organisation and Oxford Brookes University.
The aim of my education program is to create a fun and interactive learning environment where children can learn about lemurs and the work being done to conserve them, specifically the work of the Polisin’ala (forest patrollers), through a range of different activities including a comic book and field trips to TGK. By gaining an understanding of children’s knowledge and perceptions towards Tsitongambarika and its lemurs, this education program can help protected area personnel engage with children and build on their knowledge, skills and desire to support conservation efforts.
I am currently undertaking a masters in Primate conservation at Oxford Brookes University with the hope that this will be the first step into a career in conservation. My interest in primates dates back to over 10 years ago to a show called the Orang-utan diaries. A documentary about the lives of Borneo orang-utans and the people who have dedicated their lives to conserving them. Watching the passion and determination these people had for conservation it was impossible for me to not be inspired to follow a similar path. Since then I have completed by bachelors degree in Zoology at the University of Bristol and have been fortunate enough to travel to some incredible places around the world to conduct fieldwork. From conducting biodiversity surveys in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve of Mexico, to conducting behavioural studies on dwarf mongooses in South Africa.
Through my masters degree I have been given the opportunity to focus my interests on environmental education which is the area of conservation I would like to work in once I have completed this degree.
Why am I doing this research?
Madagascar is one of the worlds most important biodiversity hotspots and is home to the greatest number of endemic primates, the lemurs. Lemurs can only be found in Madagascar which is why it is essential that their homes be protected. Sadly as much as 90% of Madagascar's forests have already been lost, and over 94% of lemur species are threatened. The forests of Tsitongambarika are home to seven species of lemur, all of which are experiencing a decline in their populations as a result of forest loss due to slash and burn agriculture, illegal logging and hunting for bushmeat. These forests are not only a lifeline for lemurs, but also local communities, which means the needs of these communities must be considered when implementing any conservation strategy. In 2008 the forests became a protected area to try and help conserve the forests biodiversity. Other studies have highlighted the importance of building relationships between protected areas and local people through positive engagements such as community meetings and education programs, in order to generate support for these areas.
Through my education program I want to help those managing the Tsitongambarika's forests build positive relationships with local communities and generate awareness and support for the important work being done to protect some of Madagascar's most iconic wildlife. And hopefully inspire the next generation of conservationists!
Meet the lemurs of Tsitongambarika!
What will the project involve?
The program will be made up of two parts
1) The comic book
Comic books have a long-standing place in Madagascar's education system. This comic will tell the story of two Polisin'ala workers (forests patrollers) and their journey through the forests to meet each of seven lemurs. The comic will be a fun and engaging way to learn about lemur behaviours, diets, why the forest is important to them and to people and their role in protecting it as seed dispersers.
2) Field trips
Field trips have been used in many education programs to help reinforce information taught in a traditional classroom setting. Field trips can be used to create fun and memorable learning experiences and for some children this will be their first opportunity to see lemurs in their natural habitat. The children will learn how to identify different lemurs and how the Polisin'ala help to protect them.
Measuring the success of the program
I will be evaluating the impact of the education program on children's knowledge and perceptions of Tsitongambarika and its lemurs using a drawing activity which will be completed before and after the program to look whether the children have increased their knowledge as a result of participating in the program. Drawings can be a fun and engaging way for children to demonstrate what they have learnt in comparison to formal assessment-style methods including questionnaires and surveys, and can be used to overcome disparities in literacy levels amongst children.
As a result of participating in the program the children will build on their existing knowledge of lemurs and TGK to produce more comprehensive drawings and novel ideas relating to the information provided in the program. This will hopefully result in the children developing a greater interest and desire to get involved in lemur conservation.
How your money will help!
I will be applying to multiple organisations for grants to help fund my trip but I still need help raising £1000 which will go towards my flights and the flights of a Malagasy student and their supervisor.
One of the conditions for conducting research in Madagascar is I have to fund a Malagasy student from the University of Antananarivo to come to Tsitongambarika to conduct their own research. This is a fantastic opportunity to help support a Malagasy student in the early stages of their conservation career, an opportunity they may not otherwise have.
Malagasy student/supervisor: £ 1,113
Accommodation and subsistence: £459
Local community support (including a translator, local guides, cooks and porters): £1,062
Thank you for your support!!!