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FCO Know Before You Go

Madagascar Wildlife Conservation Adventure

  • In Brief
  • The Project
  • What to Expect
  • Reviews
  • Gallery
  • Extras
  • Dates & Costs
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How To Apply

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Find out more about Madagascar

Start your adventure now by reading our country guide for Madagascar!


Frontier Group Project

Working in collaboration with institutions and NGOs with the country, projects are research-based, creating sustainable and biodiverse programmes.

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Frontier Research Publications

The Society for Environmental Exploration has published one or more research reports related to this project.

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The magical Island of Madagascar is famous for its bizarre assemblage of wildlife, its dramatic landscapes and its unique and varied ecosystems. No other island or place in Earth boasts such a combination of species richness and endemism! For example, every native terrestrial mammal species found on this huge island is endemic, and found nowhere else on Earth! Most famous of all of its inhabitants though are the Lemurs, primitive prosimians whose name, derived from the Roman Lemures, or 'spirits of the dead' exemplify the islands biological wealth, yet also its fragility.

There are currently 103 recognised Lemur species on the island, all of which are believed to have evolved from a single colonising ancestor, who reached isolated Madagascar some 50million years ago! Sadly however, recent assessments made by the IUCN now show that the Lemurs are now the most endangered group of vertebrates in the world, with 94 species being classified as threatened with extinction! However Lemurs are not the only group of animals in need of help! The Amphibian fauna of Madagascar is considered to be one of the greatest on Earth, with 238 recognised species and with another 182 candidate species currently awaiting classification! Madagascar has sadly already lost over 90% of its original forest cover though, and this has put increased pressure on all of the endangered species who live here.

Madagascar is also the centre of diversity for chameleons, with almost half of this old world fauna being found exclusively on the island! Including both the largest, and smallest species in the world! In Madagascar, there are weird, unique and wonderful forms of life everywhere that you look, and the more you discover about each of them, the more amazing they become! This sentiment was summed up perfectly by the 18th century French doctor and explorer, Joseph Philibert Commerson in a letter to his tutor in Paris:

"Of Madagascar I can announce to naturalists that this is truly their promised land. Here nature seems to have created a special sanctuary whither she seems to have withdrawn to experiment with designs different from any she has created elsewhere. At every step, one meets more remarkable and marvellous forms of life"

Despite these tantalising early accounts, Madagascar is still an island shrouded in mystery, and remains relatively un-studied to this day! Myths and legends abound in Madagascar, and remain deeply embedded in the collective imagination, adding to the sense of magic surrounding the island!

So journey with us to our current location in Northern Madagascar, an area which represents a transitional habitat between the floral communities of both the East and West, an area renowned for its high species diversity and high levels of endemism! One of the most threatened forest habitats in Madagascar - The seasonal humid forests of the Sambirano biome.

The Frontier-Madagascar wildlife conservation project is currently based on the 'scented island' of Nosy Be, famous for its vanilla, ylang-ylang and mangoes! Whilst on the wildlife conservation project you’ll discover a huge variety of Madagascar's exotic species, as you trek through rugged and remote regions of this hugely exciting island. Working alongside other dedicated volunteers, you’ll help to monitor the distribution and abundance of many groups of animal, and help assess how they are responding to human induced stress factors such as deforestation, habitat fragmentation and other forms of anthropogenic disturbance.

On this project you will directly contribute to important research, aiming to inform local government about how to manage the remaining forests and conserve their invaluable natural assets. You will learn an array of surveying techniques and have a chance to contribute to the to the local community through our education outreach days. But of course it is not all work, and after a hard days trekking and exploration you can always take advantage of the camp’s beach front location and relax on the golden beaches, snorkel in the crystal clear waters or play football against the local village!



PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS

  • Discover strange and beautiful Madagascar
  • Study wildlife in one of the world's most biodiverse regions
  • Make lifelong friends and return with incredible stories, photos and memories
Airport Pickup Camping Beach Emergency Physical Ground Transport Meals Research Terrestrial Qualification Trekking Wildlife Rainforest Snorkelling Encounter Beach
FAST FACTS
Location Madagascar
Discovering rare Madagascan wildlife
Activities Assessing the biodiversity
Compiling species lists
Setting up trapsites
Leaf-litter surveys
Mapping of vegetation
Assessing human disturbance
Recording how local communities use their precious natural resources
Beach R & R and snorkelling at the end of your trip
Transport Airport pickup weekly on a Monday. Alternative start dates possible, additional £35GBP applies for pickup, please speak to an adviser
Transfer to town centre and beach camp from Nosy Be Airport weekly on a Monday
Accommodation Communal beach camp

WHAT'S INCLUDED
Before you go

Pre-departure support
Travel & medical advice & documentation
Equipment advice
Discounted medical kit
Free Frontier t-shirt

UK residential briefing weekend including food, accommodation and training FREE for 10 week+ volunteers (US$144 per person for those participating for less that 10 weeks)

In-country Food
Accommodation
Airport pickup weekly on a Monday. Alternative start date possible, additional US$63GBP applies for pickup, please speak to an adviser
Internal ground transfers & in-transit accommodation (weekly on a Monday). Alternative start dates possible
Local orientation and training 
In-country emergency support
24-hour international HQ back-up
Vocational qualification diploma or certificate in Tropical Habitat Conservation or CoPE available (4 week+ volunteers)
PADI scuba diving courses available extra cost applies (subject to availability)

WHAT DOES THE PROJECT DO?

Help conserve species found nowhere else on earth

The projects aims are to contribute to the current understanding of the local environment and help monitor the spectacular array of wildlife found here. Madagascar has been isolated for over 84 million years, creating a biodiversity resource of global significance, with over 80% of species found nowhere else on Earth! Nosy Be's fauna includes three species of Lemur, including the diminutive Mouse Lemurs (Microcebus), the smallest primates on earth! Reptiles include rare Turtles, Snakes, Gecko's including the superbly camouflaged Leaf-tailed Gecko's (Uroplatus), Skinks and an array of Chameleon's.

There is spectacular bird life on the island, with the highest levels of endemism of any similar sized area in the world, as well as some elusive tenrecs – a group of small mammals that are incredibly diverse, filling niches in aquatic, teresterial, arboreal and fossorial environments, resembling everything from otters to hedgehogs.

Desertification & hunting

Madagascar's human population has doubled since 1960, leading to increased deforestation and overgrazing, which in turn has caused massive soil erosion and desertification. Only one tenth of the original forests remain, and this situation is rapidly deteriorating as the human population continues to grow. The forests are cut down to provide nutrients and land for agriculture, as well as being used as hunting grounds in the more remote and poor communities.

Empower Malagasy communities

You will be assessing the local flora and fauna of the region through biodiversity surveys of Mammals, Birds, Butterflies, Reptiles and Amphibians with the aim of informing and educating the local government and communities. It is our goal to leave a lasting impact in the region and to help the local communities appreciate and conserve their local environment, and to avoid the pitfalls of exploitation. You will interact with the community providing environmental education days. This will enable you to evaluate the impact of the human population on the wildlife, and help to develop ideas allowing the community to lead more sustainable lifestyles.

WHAT WILL I BE DOING?

The main aims of the programme are to assess the biodiversity in this little-studied area and compare different habitat types and the effects of human disturbance, which may take several forms. We hope to gain insights into how each species, or family of animals is responding to human induced habitat modification and other anthropogenic stresses. It is our aim to discover which species are able to adapt and cope with human interaction and which species may be intolerant to any form of disturbance. By helping us to find out which species are most vulnerable to human disturbance, we can help design specific conservation action plans for better conservation management in the future, and inform the local Ministries responsible for managing the forests.

Our current projects involve carrying out extensive surveys of the local Mammals, Birds, Reptiles and Amphibians that exist in the surrounding forests. These surveys are conducted in a variety of habitat types, ranging from primary forest to plantation type habitats along a gradient of human disturbance. Our survey techniques range from setting up canopy or pitfall traps, active searches during both the day and night and behavioural surveys to collecting morphometric data on Chameleons and Snakes and learning how to record Birds by identifying their calls. Madagascar is also one of the few tropical countries where snakes are relatively harmless, and handling techniques can be honed without the risk of serious envenomation! In addition we will also be doing mapping of vegetation, assessing disturbance and resource-use in the area to build up an accurate picture of resource use. For more details on our specific projects and methods, as well as our results so far please see our most recent Science Report.

If this is your first time doing conservation work, don't worry! It will only take a short while for you to feel totally at home on camp and confident with the science work. Although the work is intense you'll find that living in such a beautiful and inaccessible environment alongside friends who share your passion for conservation will be the experience of a lifetime!
You'll find your team to be a fun, dynamic mix of ages (usually between 18 and 25, though no age limit applies), and experiences, with members who all share a passion about travelling in developing countries and saving endangered life. Your staff will be young, friendly individuals who are highly experienced in their field and many may have volunteered on a Frontier project earlier in their career.
 

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I ARRIVE?

Volunteers arriving weekly on a Monday will be welcomed by a Frontier representative at Nosy Be airport. From here it's a short taxi or minibus ride from the airport to the centre of this vibrant town. If you arrive before noon, you will transfer to your project site and be introduced to the Frontier-Madagascar programme on the same day. If you arrive later in the day, you will stay overnight at the Frontier volunteer house in town and transfer to your project site the following day. You will meet staff, receive some initial project briefings, including an introduction to the work programme and to the field research techniques used, as well as being given health and safety lectures, so make sure your medical kit is complete and start reading your Safety and Medical Guides now.

If you are joining for the 4 weeks project you will be transferred back to the town of Nosy Be from where you can reach the airport or start your onward independent travel. Independent travellers arriving on dates other than weekly on a Monday can arrange a separate airport collection (extra cost; US$63GBP) by contacting the camp staff in Nosy Be. 

WHERE WILL I BE STAYING?

During the project you'll trek each day from the main campsite on the beach at Nosy Be, along with other Frontier volunteers and staff, to distant and remote sites in the forest to conduct the field work. We aim to provide you with a unique and memorable living experience. The Frontier field camps are designed to blend in with the surrounding natural environments. They consist of a collection of tents and shelters sometimes incorporating simple local dwellings constructed by Frontier volunteers working with local staff, using traditional building techniques and locally sourced materials. Your beach camp will make no permanent or intrusive impact on the environment and will provide you with a special home during your stay.

Life on camp is simple and fun. We believe that part of the excitement of journeying to a foreign country comes from immersing yourself with the local communities and living at one with nature. In your beach-camp your "shower" may consist of a river-pool, jug or bucket of water or wash in the sea and you will be cooking over an open fire: so prepare yourself for the simple, low footprint, unencumbered lifestyle! When you are trekking away from the base camp you may stay on a "satellite camp" which may consist of a mosquito net pitched in a remote clearing. You will help run camp from day-to-day, taking turns to cook, collect firewood, purify water, and other essential camp maintenance duties.

At the end of your period of field work you will enjoy a few days of well deserved rest and relaxation with swimming and snorkelling in the fabulous crystal clear offshore waters.

WHAT WILL I BE EATING?

Camp food is basic and nutritious and consists largely of rice, vegetables, beans and noodles, all of which are purchased locally in order to help support the local economy. Luxuries such as chocolate, peanut butter and drinking chocolate must be imported from the local town, so make sure you stock up before heading to the field! Part of your role on camp will be to help with the cooking, so get your cookbooks out now and start practising! Also, with luck you'll be invited to local feasts and festivals – a great way to meet locals and enjoy local culture.