Northern Sportive Lemur Project

The world's most endangered primates are not gorillas or orangutans, but the relatively unknown northern sportive lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis). Only about 50 remaining individuals are known to exist and are restricted to the rapidly deminishing forests of the Montagne de Français Reserve in Madagascar.

As the northern sportive lemur does not survive in captivity, preservation of its natural habitat is the only way to ensure this species' survival. Yet, rapid extinction of the northern sportive lemur is a very real possibility due to habitat loss associated with the extensive production of charcoal throughout its restricted range. The loss of this species, which is currently on the list of the 25 most endangered primates, could be followed by other species endemic to Montagne de Français, such as 36 endangered or critically endangered plants only found there.

Here, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership's conservation program is working to save this most endangered lemur by fervently working with the local community to protect this habitat, introducing alternative fuel sources and establishing a reforestation program.

Rocket Stove Project

Charcoal production is resulting in large swaths of trees being cut for fuel with little to no opposition from government or park officials. The land is then left exposed in a hot and dry environment risking desertification. Eventually, local villages will not be able to supply themselves with supplies elsewhere. Residents of nearby Andavakoera participate in this illegal activity as they previously had not been introduced to affordable alternatives.

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership and Conservation Fusion, an international non-governmental organization focused on conservation education, have been working with Andavakoera since 2009. Overall, the community has been receptive to new ideas and eager for change that will improve the standard of distributing 100 fuel-efficient cooking stoves coupled with an intensive education program to participants in the forestation program in Antsiranana. The income-generating potential of these technologies increase the likelihood of long-term acceptance. Simultaneously, a reforestation program incorporating native trees and a sustainable agriculture component will restore ecosystem services.

The momentum generated from this initiative will be used to encourage local people to assume leadership roles in the sustainable development of their home and protect the northern sportive lemur and forests of Montagne de Français.

Aquaponics Pilot Program

Recent research indicates that small-scale fisheries in Madagascar have a significant and positive impact on local economies due to their contribution to food security and poverty reduction, both critical factors in development of sustainable societies. This is a sustainable food production method that combines aquaculture techniques of raising fish for food with hydroponics methods of growing plants in a liquid medium. When the system is properly balanced, both the vegetation and fish can be regularly harvested, providing much needed food security to the community.

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's Conservation Genetics Department has initiated a pilot project focused on aquaponics. We are partnering with Whispering Roots, an Omaha-based non-profit that specializes in aquaponics to design a system using locally available materials that are robust enough to withstand the climate and incorporate local vegetation and dish preferences to ensure acceptance by the community.

As of September 2013, we have constructed and are currently testing a pilot program in which we will mirror the concepts that we hope to build in Madagascar. This test system is allowing us to learn the process hands-on as well as evaluate vegetation and fish productivity in the system for deployment in Madagascar. We hope to transfer this knowledge to our field team in Madagascar in 2014.