This December I will be returning to Madagascar, to the country that gave me my first taste, smell and sight of what a tropical ecosystem is really like, beyond what I had seen on nature documentaries. When I first went in 2008, Madagascar delivered a zoological Mawashi-zuki (mah-wha-she zoo-key), or Roundhouse punch, right in my face, and confirmed my passion for wildlife conservation. Since I was there, Madagascar has lost around 650,000 football pitches of forest, and this gives me passion and drive in a different way, there is a distinct sense of urgency.
As you may know Madagascar is the fourth poorest country in the world and has experienced severe environmental degradation over the last century. It has lost somewhere between 80-90 percent of its forest cover since humans arrived, yet a multitude of endemic and endangered species cling on to survival in remnant forest patches.
Expedition Angano (website) has been in the making for over a year. It’s the brainchild of my good friend and long-term colleague James Borrell and our team includes Duncan Parker, Mark Scherz and Thomas Starnes, as well as a number of Malagasy collaborators.
Our expedition will visit a number of forest fragments to study the effects of the forest edge on the biodiversity within. In a country where 90% of the forest is within 1km of the edge this is crucial research. Using reptiles and amphibians as indicator species we want to assess how resilient the species are to the different environmental conditions found at forest edges. In a practical sense, with much conservation attention now focused on forest regeneration and habitat corridors, we hope to be able to assess the value of smaller fragments which have large proportions of edge habitat.
Expedition Angano is proud to have received funding from the Royal Geographical Society, Cadogan Tate and the Zoological Society of London, but we are also crowd-funding to have the capacity to invite several Madagascan university students to join the expedition to undertake their dissertations.
With your support, we can give young Malagasy students skills and experience, to allow them to build a future in conservation.