Reintroduction and Translocation Project

The Analamazaotra Special Reserve is an evergreen rainforest, which is a short, three-hour drive from Madagascar's capital city of Antananarivo. This reserve remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in Madagascar due to the guaranteed opportunity to view quite closely the Indiri, the largest remaining lemur.

Historically, the reserve was part of a continuous forest that included Mantadia National Park to the north, Maromizaha Classified Forest to the southeast and Anosibe an'ala to the south. However, due to habitat destruction, the four forests are now relatively isolated yet remain home to vast biodiversity, including many endemic rare and endangered species.

The endangered Diademed sifaka and the critically endangered black and white ruffed lemur were once among the fauna found in Analamazaotra Special Reserve. In 1973, hunting pressures led to the regional extinction of the Diademed sifaka. Three years later, the black and white ruffed lemur followed. Although forest management regimes have improved protection efforts of the forests, not all of the voices of the forest have returned.

Dr. Louis and his field team were recruited by Madagascar National Parks and Eaux et Fôret (Malagasy Forestry Service) to initiate the first-ever attempt to recover a species' former distribution in Madagascar. In January 2006, after more than four years of planning and adherence to the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) guidelines, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium initiated the Analamazaotra Reintroduction and Translocation Project by re-establishing the Diademed sifaka and black and white ruffed lemur back into their historical habitat range within Analamazaotra Special Reserve.

The collaborative multi-disciplinary project has evaluated the biomedical, genetic, habitat, nutritional and reproductive parameters through the daily monitoring of 34 radio-collared translocated/reintroduced lemurs, including 26 Diademed sifaka and eight black and white ruffed lemurs from nearby forests. These translocated lemurs created new groups and have produced numerous offspring in the following years.

The project has succeeded by re-established the wild lemur populations, collecting data, preserving fecal samples for hormone analysis, increasing protection within the reserve and habituating the re-introduced groups to human presence. These introduced lemurs, taken from threatened populations or small, unsustainable forest tracts, are doing so well that visitors have been lucky enough to see three generations of babies born at the park. This project has also helped the Malagasy community through the training of Malagasy doctorate and graduate students and local field guides and educating the local communities about the biodiversity of their local eco-region.