Promoting restoration in Mitsinjo’s forest

Climate change is a global phenomenon which concerns also Madagascar. Many parts of the island suffer from drought, because there has not been enough rain. The water reserves have dwindled, which has contributed to the decrease of capacity in energy production all over the country. Dryness has also affected agriculture. To fight against climate change and to mitigate its impact, the government of Madagascar has initiated a national program for planting trees in the whole country. The program is implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forests. The planting campaign 2017-2018 was officially launched in December 2017 in Ambohibary, in the district of Moramanga.

On 3 February 2018, the campaign organised an event in Andasibe in collaboration with Mitsinjo. The Ministry was represented by the director of Alaotra Mangoro region (DREEF – Diréction régionale de l’environnement, de l’écologie et des forêts) and by the Moramanga district office (CIREEF – Circonscription de l’environnement, de l’écologie et des forêts). The National association of forest engineers (AIM – Association d’ingénieurs forestiers nationale) and the Association of forest engineers of Alaotra Mangoro were represented by their presidents. The deputy secretary general of Madagascar National Parks was also attending and there was a representative from Ambatovy. From Mitsinjo, president Jean Noël NDRIAMIARY and three other staff members participated in the event. The other participants were forest engineers from the Moramanga district. Altogether, 40 people had gathered to Mitsinjo’s office. A journalist from Moramanga TV had come to follow the occasion and recorded it on video.

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Mad RANDRIANASOLO, Restoration manager (2nd from the left) explains the various steps of planting

After welcome speeches, the guests were led to the forest. The planting area had been prepared close to Mitsinjo’s office in Ankahizinina along a restoration circuit. It is part of a site that was reforested in 2016 by the Manondroala project. 300 seedlings of 32 different species of native trees were there ready waiting. They had been brought from Mitsinjo’s tree nurseries. In the Alaotra Mangoro region, Mitsinjo is the only association to grow and plant native trees. The seedlings were its contribution to the event.

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Mitsinjo’s President Jean Noël NDRIAMIARY teaching his youngest children

Before the work started, Mr Mad RANDRIANASOLO, Mitsinjo’s restoration manager planted one seedling to show how it should be done. After the demonstration, the participants spread around the site and it did not take long before all seedlings had been planted. In less than an hour the work was over, thanks to Mitsinjo’s tree planters. They had prepared the site beforehand. They had transported the seedlings, cleaned the area and dug the holes. All that the event participants had to do was to make place for the seedling, remove the plastic pot and put the seedling into the hole. The last step was to fill the empty space with soil tightly around the plant. Then it was time to move to the next seedling.

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Forest engineers at work

When all trees had been planted, the group returned to Mitsinjo’s office. In the meeting hall, tables were set with snacks and drinks. It was time to relax and celebrate together before going home. The event was closed by RAKOTOSONINA Henri, president of the Association of forest engineers of Alaotra Mangoro who thanked all participants for their contribution.

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Tables are set. Sitting on seats of honour  Paul RAHONTSOA, vice president of AIM – Association d’ingénieurs forestiers nationale (on the left), RAKOTOSONINA Henri, president of the Association of forest engineers of Alaotra Mangoro and RAKOTONOELY, the eldest of forest engineers in the Alaotra Mangoro region

Mitsinjo has been doing reforestation for over 10 years. Cooperation with the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation in the Manondroala project in 2012-2017 has considerably increased knowledge of and experience in restoration and forest conservation among the Mitsinjo staff. The association has become a recognized professional in the field of forest restoration. The Ministry of Environment and the University of Antananarivo are important partners in this work.

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Golden Mantella Released from Captivity to Help Wild Population

Mantella aurantiaca, the Golden frog is an amphibian species endemic to Madagascar. It occurs only in a very limited area around the town of Moramanga including the Torotorofotsy wetland near Andasibe. Due to its restricted distribution, the Golden mantella is considered Critically Endangered. The species is threatened by habitat loss caused by human activities. Also, the amphibian chytrid fungus might put it at risk.

To mitigate population declines and the threat of extinction, assurance populations caught from three sites on the footprint of the Ambatovy nickel and cobalt mine were established in captivity by Mitsinjo in 2012. In 2013, a reintroduction programme was prepared and the breeding centre started to raise an additional number of frogs with a future release in mind.

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Adult Golden Mantella at the Mitsinjo captivity breeding center

The preparations of this first release trial began in 2016. Four receptor sites were selected and restored by Ambatovy in collaboration with the University of Antananarivo. The sites are in protected zones close to the ponds where the animals belonging to the original founder stock had been caught. The release took place on three consecutive days from 26 to 28 April 2017, following disease screening to ensure captive stock was in good health. Golden Mantella produced in captivity by Mitsinjo, including more than 1,000 larvae and frogs, were taken early in the morning and transported in plastic boxes from the centre to the receptor sites. A soft-release method was used for adults and juveniles. This means that the animals were not immediately released into the natural sites but acclimatized to wild conditions by keeping them in protecting cages. Tadpoles at earlier life stages were released using the hard-release method, directly into the closed habitat. Ambatovy and the University of Antananarivo are conducting monitoring of the frogs and larvae produced by Mitsinjo.

A Mitsinjo technician at the breeding centre assists Ambatovy staff move frogs from a terrarium to containers for transport:

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Plastic containers for transporting frogs to receptor sites

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The team from the University and Ambatovy come to collect frogs at the Mitsinjo captive breeding center.

The official launch of the reintroduction of the Golden mantella was organised on 19 May 2017 in Andasibe. 72 people participated in the seminar, representing the Ministry of the Environment, Ecology and Forests, local and regional authorities, environmental organisations and the Ambatovy mining company. The member of Parliament elected from Moramanga opened the seminar officially. There were also many journalists who were interested in the release. A press conference was held on 18 and 19 May.

The frogs have been monitored after the release and the results look promising. The whole release programme will last two years. It is implemented in close collaboration between the stakeholders which include the General Directorate of Forests DGF (Direction Générale des Forêts), the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group Madagascar, the Biodiversity team of Ambatovy Minerals, Association Mitsinjo, Madagasikara Voakajy, and the Universities of Antananarivo and Mahajanga.

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Mesh field enclosure for soft release of tadpoles constructed by the Biodversity team of Ambatovy and the University.

The Next Generation of Environmental Stewards in Andasibe

Some nice photos this week from our September 2015 Environmental Education program, featuring students from the Secondary School participating in a four week long course about forests, frogs, and lemurs. Below Mad Randrianasolo, Head of Conservation, explains about the process of reforestation at our largest tree nursery in Farahevitra.

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P4GES Workshop Hosted at Mitsinjo

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Can paying for ecosystem services reduce poverty in Madagascar? This is the question the P4GES Project hopes to answer through their three year research initiative involving scientists from the UK, Madagascar, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.

Mitsinjo's President Jean Noel Ndriamiary with a P4GES research team conducting an  infiltration experiment in degraded vegetation west of Analamazaotra Forest.

Mitsinjo’s President Jean Noel Ndriamiary with a P4GES research team conducting an infiltration experiment in degraded vegetation west of Analamazaotra Forest.

We were pleased to be able to host their recent workshop in Andasibe September 16-18. The various research teams were able to meet at our office and share some of their work conducted so far, not only among each other but also with Mitsinjo’s collaborative staff.

P4GES Hydrology team demonstrating their closed canopy weather station in Mitsinjo forest.

P4GES Hydrology team demonstrating their closed canopy weather station in Mitsinjo forest.

Although the workshop for P4GES took place in Andasibe, the project’s focal area is the entire Ankeniheny-Zahamena Forest Corridor (CAZ). The project is supported by ESPA, a research initiative that provides support to investigate how ecosystems function and their benefit to communities in developing countries.

The BBC, Back Again

We are pleased to host the BBC at Mitsinjo this August. For an upcoming series on the evolutionary history of islands and the endemic flora and fauna found on these isolated lands, a film crew worked with our Association to capture these unique stories and the science behind them.

BBC at Mitsinjo in 2009

We prepared teas with medicinal plants, filmed bats and leaf-tailed geckos, and discussed amphibian conservation and research, including the work being done to protect Andasibe’s frogs at our amphibian survival assurance center.

BBC at Mitsinjo

This was not the first time BBC had chosen Mitsinjo as their go-to in Madagascar. Previously we had worked with BBC’s film crews to contribute to:

The 2011 series focusing on Madagascar also featured many shots taken in Mitsinjo’s forests. We are pleased to have the BBC here once again, though we suspect it won’t be the last time and are looking forward to future opportunities to work together.