On July 4th 2010, 18 Malagasy Animal Biology graduate students and their professors from the University of Antananarivo embarked upon a unique journey. The destination was to Kianjavato, a small community on the Madagascar’s southeastern coast, to participate in an once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunity.
The group drove 13 hours south from the island’s central plateau to reach the humid rainforests that surround Kianjavato to attend a week-long conservation research training program. This new program, facilitated by the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP), was designed to provide participants with hands-on field experience. The MBP’s Kianjavato Ahmanson Research Station, known as KAFS, served as the program’s base camp where MBP representatives and University professors guide the students on their quest to learn how to conduct field research.
Over the week, the group learned numerous observation techniques, including how to use radio telemetry to track animals equipped with radio collars. The students took part in diurnal and nocturnal animal surveys in the forests and caves that surround the Kianjavato Commune. The conservation program’s participants located many animal species, including lemurs, reptiles and bats. The observation of these animals helped the students to gain an appreciation of the unique biodiversity in the area.
This special educational experience was not limited to an assessment of the animal diversity. Both students and professors assisted with the ongoing MBP reforestation effort by transplanting several dozen young trees.
Throughout this learning endeavor, MBP representatives discussed the multitude of issues regarding human impacts on ecology along with the importance of protecting this part of Madagascar’s natural heritage. The ultimate goal of this program was to educate and inspire students to become leading conservation researchers.