Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute’s Forest Conservation Program involves constant monitoring of the forest and its endemic wildlife on Nosy Komba. The diversity and abundance of species needs to be studied in order to identify changes in forest dynamics, populations, habitat health and identify potential localised threats.
We use a variety of field survey techniques to assess the biodiversity of the following;
- Lemurs – Species ID, behavioural monitoring and comparisons and population assessments carried out at designated observation sites.
- Reptiles & Amphibians – Pitfall traps, transect surveys and active forest searches both during the day and at night.
- Birds – Visual and vocal identification, potential for mist netting.
- Invertebrates – Creating an inventory or species through observations and moth sheet surveys.
Forest volunteers will receive species identification training and learn how to conduct field surveys, set up equipment and collate their data.
Volunteering on the forest conservation project is a rare opportunity to experience one of the world’s most unique ecosystems and encounter the iconic creatures for which Madagascar is famed.
Currently the following long term projects are being undertaken, however personal projects/university studies are welcomed:
- Black Lemur ecology (Eulemur macaco macaco) – We are currently studying 3 groups of lemurs, all located in closed canopy forest but never far away from village and human presence. Our focus is on their relations with their habitat, their home range and group size. We also hope to be able to estimate their tolerance against habitat fragmentation and disturbance. In addition to this we are conducting behavioural comparisons between wild populations and those habituated with human presence and interaction at the local lemur park.
- Reptile Survey – We survey reptile populations in the following 6 habitats:
- open plantation
- coffee plantationshrubby forest
- closed canopy forest
- primary forest
We use two different methods for this, each focuses on different niches. One is transect surveys, volunteers walk along set 250m transects identifying all reptiles and amphibians seen. The second is plot searches, during these volunteers actively search through a pre-defined plot looking for cryptic species.
In addition to the intensive transect and plot searches we are using pitfall traps to study ground dwelling reptiles and amphibians. Most surveys happen during the day however we carry out weekly night walks surveying for nocturnal species using the same methods.
- Bird survey – We conduct bird population surveys on the coast, in plantations and in the forest. Point counts are conducted where birds are identified both visually and vocally. This survey allows us to study the seasonal occupancy, habitat preferences and provide updated data on the endemic bird species present on Nosy Komba.
Our main surveying sites are located on Nosy Komba which is a volcanic island. There are no roads and the paths through the forest are not always well trodden, they can be steep, rocky and sometimes muddy depending on the season. A good level of physical fitness is required to reach the survey sites which involve climbing over rocks and up steep mountain trails.