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Local awareness and perceptions: consequences for conservation of marsh habitat at Lake Alaotra for one of the world's rarest lemurs

  • Patrick O. Waeber (a1), Lena M. Reibelt (a1), Ihoby H. Randriamalala (a1), Gabrielle Moser (a2), Lucile M. Raveloarimalala (a1), Fidy B. Ralainasolo (a1), Jonah Ratsimbazafy (a1) and Lance Woolaver (a3)...

Management and monitoring of community-based protected areas in Madagascar remain challenging because of a lack of financial, human and technical resources, and capacity. At Lake Alaotra, conversion of marshland for rice cultivation and a lack of effective habitat protection have pushed the locally endemic Alaotra gentle lemur Hapalemur alaotrensis to the brink of extinction. The highest density of the species is found in the locally managed Park Bandro, a high-priority conservation zone within the Lake Alaotra New Protected Area. We evaluated local awareness and perceptions of Park Bandro, and discussed preferred management options with local communities. Two questionnaire surveys were carried out, one with 180 participants at six sites around the lake and marsh, and another with 50 participants in the village adjacent to Park Bandro. The majority of participants knew of the existence of Park Bandro but most did not know its purpose or size. Values and perceptions of local communities were influenced by occupation and distance to the Park, with fishers being most aware of the Park. We found that local people had a high level of environmental awareness and were willing to discuss zonation and alternative resource management strategies as long as these activities could provide a tangible livelihood benefit. Lack of awareness among local resource users regarding the purpose and status of protected areas such as Park Bandro is a challenge that needs to be addressed, and one that is relevant for environmental education and management of protected areas throughout Madagascar.

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