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Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_1
BlogMarine Conservation

Marine Conservation Monthly Report

Author: Ethan Getz, Marine Science Manager
January 2018

Over the past few months, the marine conservation staff have worked to continue long-term reef monitoring projects while developing new methods to measure the health of our home reef and the surrounding reefs on Nosy Komba. Robust datasets have been collected from reef transect surveys, turtle watch, and nudibranch surveys. These long-term surveys will provide valuable information on the health of our MPA and some of the indicator species that inhabit it. In the coming months, efforts will be made to analyze these data in depth to decipher developing trends. While long-term data collection from existing surveys remains the primary goal, staff have also recently developed new reef survey methods.

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Baseline surveys using the Spirit of Malala were developed in November to assess the health of reefs all around Nosy Komba. To date, three baseline surveys have been conducted (at xmas tree hotel, greenhouse and pyramids) and data have now been analyzed. Results suggest that the south and west sides of Nosy Komba have healthy coral reefs while reefs are more sparse on the eastern side. Results from the sessile surveys indicate that no coral bleaching is currently happening and that the reef appears to be in a period of recovery. The presence of rock, sand and silt indicate that there have been damaging events in the past, but currently the reefs are rebuilding.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_2

Marine Conservation Monthly Report January 2018

Active swimmer surveys were used to determine the number of fish species at each site and which functional group they belong to (i.e. piscivores, herbivores, ect.). Results suggest that there is a good distribution of fish from each functional group on each reef, but the relatively low abundance of piscivores indicates that overfishing may be a problem on Nosy Komba.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_3

Marine Conservation Monthly Report January 2018

These species are generally the first ones to be fished out and their relatively low numbers point to fishing pressure in the area. Benthic surveys also provided data on invertebrate diversity around Nosy Komba and suggest that there is a healthy reef community.

In addition to baseline surveys, artificial reef surveys on the pyramids at Stonehenge and Madhatter have produced meaningful data. On average, each pyramid provides habitat for 115 fish, 39 bivalves and a variety of sessile species. In addition, many species of fish such as the Malabar snapper and red emperor snapper are routinely found on the artificial structures, but only occasionally on the natural reef. The high abundance of juvenile fish on the pyramids is also an encouraging sign that the structures are acting as a nursery for fish larvae settling out of the water column. Overall, the pyramids seem to be increasing both abundance and diversity of many reef species making them well worth the investment to construct them.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_4

Other ongoing projects include the coral bleaching surveys, invasive species surveys and turtle monitoring. Since coral bleaching and invasive species surveys have only just started, preliminary results will be analyzed in the coming months. Results from active turtle surveys, turtle walks and turtle watch are still being analyzed, but preliminary results suggest that there is a healthy population of resident turtles on our reef. Turtle walks have been less productive with only one hatched nest having been found, but it is clear that at least some turtles nest on Nosy Komba. In summary, the reefs around Nosy Komba appear to be showing the signs of human activities, but overall it is still a healthy reef system with strong community structure.

Marine Conservation Monthly Report_Turtle Cove_JAN 2018_Coral Bleaching_5


Find out more about our Marine Conservation Program Here


Madagascar Volunteer: Volunteers in Ankarana Forest Reserve
BlogForest ConservationTeaching

Volunteers Journey to an Exotic World

As part of both our Forest Conservation and Teaching English volunteer programs, volunteers enjoy a five day adventure tour through the Ankarana Forest Reserve.  Natalia shares her experience with us…

“My friend, you are late, the boat leaves”.

Madagascar Volunteer: Volunteers in Ankarana Forest ReserveOur party of four volunteers made its way through the busy port of Hell-Ville.  The port provides transport back to Ankify (the closest mainland port) and other islands in the area.  Needless to say there were many boats moored at the harbour.  Serjay, a local I had met the day before, had booked us a speedboat to Ankify and taxi-brusse to Ankarana.  We were led smoothly through customs and loaded onto a speedboat with a name that translates to “fast like the wind”.  Our driver seemed particularly excited about the name.  After a quick glance to check where the life jackets were located, we were off.  “Wind maker” seemed a more appropriate name.

Arriving in Ankify, a large sign over the entrance to the port confirmed that we had arrived at the correct destination and the port seemed to be exploding with people.  Our next objective was to find the taxi-brusse.  Asking around for Jimmy’s Transport, a larger, obviously respected man signalled for us to stand to one side.  Before long somebody else arrived and explained that he would take us through town to buy a banana and water for the trip before taking us to the taxi-brusse.

With luggage piled high and roped down to the roof, the four of us board climb aboard.  Being tall, I am ushered into the front seat.  This is a blessing as Joe and Hetty are cramped in the third row with six other people…and it’s only a three seat row.

The three hour journey to Ankarana was an exhilarating game of “dodge the pothole, Zebu and continuous stream of locals using the road”.  It’s busy but not with cars.

It was incredibly refreshing to be on this journey after leaving city life behind a month ago.  Traveling at a typical speed of about 60kmh never felt so good.

We arrived at the Ankarana Forest Reserve at 2:00 pm where we met our friendly local guide, Joaqim.  By then, the team were more than ready for lunch and eager to explore the park.  I could already tell this was going to be a good trip.  On the walk to our lodge we saw many exotic fruit trees.  Joe eagerly climbed every tree and to try all the fruit, as our guide patiently explained what was ripe and edible. Over the next few days we tasted a number of different fruit, Joe climbed several trees and we all came away with a new favourite fruit, possibly not to be found anywhere else in the world.

Madagascar Volunteer: Volunteers in Ankarana Forest ReserveAs the park is open only during daylight hours, we did a night walk along a path outside the park on the first night.  The wildlife in the forest is exotic and plentiful.  The whole team excitedly joined in identifying forest animals by recognizing the reflected eye colour when holding torch at head level.  A red reflection is that of a mouse lemur.  These are incredibly cute lemurs the size of kittens that timidly move from branch to branch eating insects, fruit, flowers and leaves.  They are rarely seen during the day, but we saw several of them that night, along with many geckos and chameleons.

Madagascar Volunteer: Volunteers in Ankarana Forest ReserveThe next morning saw everyone well-rested and still excited from the success of the night before.  We then headed off into the Forest Reserve, each taking six litres of water with us.  The park is quite flat but we travelled slowly to enjoy both the stories our guide shared with us and to spot the flora and fauna.

The Ankarana Forest reserve is situated on a small partially vegetated plateau of 150 million year old limestone which slopes gently to the east but ends abruptly at the west at the “Wall of Ankarana” (a sheer cliff that extends for 25 kilometres.  Erosion and seismic activity have created a rugged Madagascar Volunteer: Volunteers in Ankarana Forest Reservealien landscape where the forest is fenced off by large canyons of sharp Tsingys (karstic plateaus in which groundwater has undercut the elevated uplands and gouged caverns and fissures into the limestone). The word Tsingy roughly translates to “walk on your tip toes”.  I certainly would not like to travel far across these rocks without shoes.

While seeing such an abundance of wildlife as well as the striking Tsingy was amazing, the highlight of our day was to experience one of the Ankarana caves.  Earlier in the day we spotted a huge sinkhole on a dry riverbed into which two rivers disappeared.  Then we went to see a section of the underground riverbed.  A biologist friend once said to me, “Nature is great at sorting things. All the water is in the ocean all the trees are in the forest”.  Here, nature was no less organized – all the snail shells were neatly piled in a small sand bed in one corner.

Madagascar Volunteer: Volunteers in Ankarana Forest ReserveReturning to camp we were all tired from an exceptional day.  After a large meal of fish, fresh vegetables and flaming caramel banana desert, the team asked for a night photography lesson.  The stars were out and by the end of the lesson, all had captured at least one pleasing image of the Milky Way and a little more understanding of the amazing journeys a camera can take you on.

Madagascar Volunteer: Volunteers in Ankarana Forest ReserveOur final day in the park was another day to treasure.  We woke early to climb the highest hill in the area for a terrific view of the Tsingy wall and surrounding Baobabs and forest.  Our breakfast arrived a little late as the truck from Diego that delivers food was running late (another sign that you’re in Madagascar) as Diego is 2 hours’ drive away.

Madagascar Volunteer: Volunteers in Ankarana Forest ReserveOur second stop after having a picnic below lemurs flying through the air above our heads, was the bat cave.  This jaw-dropping cave has one of the largest cave entrances I have ever seen and is home to two species of bats.  We also witnessed a snake catching and eating a rat (good to know the pest control is working).

Madagascar Volunteer: Volunteers in Ankarana Forest ReserveAs our final hours in camp drew nearer, the team opted to do another night walk.  At 6 pm we returned and were greeted by close up encounters with crowned lemurs and leaf-tailed geckos.

The next morning, we awoke at 4 am to catch the taxi-brusse back to our base camp.  The staff at the lodge awoke early too to see us off.  Although we were saying goodbye to the forest, as we boarded we knew the adventure wasn’t over until we reached camp.  Within an hour I had my first exotic visitor!  The van stopped by the roadside and a live duck was passed through the window and purchased by my neighbour.  We travelled the rest of the way with the duck peacefully asleep in the second row.

To find out how you can join our volunteers on their adventures, contact us today or complete our online application form and join us in Madagascar!