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.


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:


Plastic containers for transporting frogs to receptor sites


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.


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

What do the tadpoles of little brown frogs eat?

We’re very pleased to be able to share some results from our amphibian captive breeding program with you this month. The full article can be found here.


A juvenile Mantidactylus betsileanus frog from the study.

Published in the journal Alytes, our members worked together to investigate what is the best diet for the tadpoles of the Madagascar Betsileo Frog Mantidactylus betsileanus. We found a locally available shrimp and powdered spirulina aglae to work better for rearing the tadpoles than mustard greens.


A tadpole in the study just about ready to complete metamorphosis.

Although the frog is not highly threatened, the information gained will help us develop future ex situ conservation programmes for species at risk that we have yet to learn how to keep in captivity. Perhaps just as importantly, the study helped our team of five amphibian technicians develop scientific expertise, and being able to answer biological questions using the scientific method allows us to make informed management decisions, not just about frogs but about the environment as a whole.


Terrariums at the breeding facility that house the frogs.

P4GES Workshop Hosted at Mitsinjo


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.

Collecting Abundant Leeches to Find Rare Vertebrates

What secretive creatures live in Mitsinjo’s forests that we have not yet found?

World famous geneticists Tom Gilbert and Kristine Bohmann from the University of Copenhagen / Copenhagen Zoo came to Mitsinjo in 2012 and 2013 to do just this. It was the first site in Madagascar to test their innovative approach for producing evidence for the occurrence of very rare and elusive animals by using the DNA in the blood of leeches.

Ubiquitous in Malagasy rainforests, leeches are perfect ambush predators with a preference for vertebrate blood. Cashed blood can be retrieved from the leeches’ crops and tested for vertebrate DNA.

The DNA in the blood of leeches could help identify rare and hard-to-find wildlife in Madagascar's forests.

The DNA in the blood of leeches could help identify rare and hard-to-find wildlife in Madagascar’s forests.

Using leeches, Tom Gilbert and his colleagues were able to identify the DNA of very rare and elusive mammals in Vietnam such as Chinese Ferret-badger Melogale moschata and the Annamite Stripped Rabbit Nesolagus timminsi. These are difficult to detect and identify with either camera trapping or other conventional methods. National Geographic have recently joined highlighted their extraordinary work.

In 2012 and 2013, they tested if this methodology can be a useful tool for tracking down rare any elusive animals in the Malagasy rainforests as well. We especially hope that this method could shed light both on the assemblage of carnivores and the occurrence of critically endangered species such as the Greater Bamboo Lemur Prolemur simus or indeed other rare lemur species.

Does the Broad-striped Mongoose (Galidictis fasciata) exist in Andasibe? Leeches may help to answer this.

Does the Broad-striped Mongoose (Galidictis fasciata) exist in Andasibe? Leeches may help to answer this.

Mitsinjo has received accounts by villagers of Broad-striped Mongoose Galidictis fasciata in the forests around Andasibe, but no confirmed sightings have ever been recorded. Perhaps this exciting new research might bring an answer to the mystery.

Read more about the exciting research and time in Andasibe

Amphibian Chytrid Fungus in Madagascar

For the first time, the amphibian chytrid fungus (Bd) has been found in wild Madagascar amphibian population. This recently published research paper summarizes the results of a tremendous collaborative effort in chytrid research in Madagascar. Association Mitsinjo is proud to have been a part of this study. Mitsinjo members were present during the first discovery of chytrid in Madagascar in the Massif du Makay and subsequently led the regular sampling of amphibians for chytrid in the Andasibe region.


As alarming as the detection of chytrid in Madagascar is, no mass mortality of amphibians appears to have been associated with it so far.

In a best case scenario this might indicate a previously undetected endemic type of Bd and/or hint at a natural resistance of Malagasy amphibians against chytrid.

In a worst case scenario, this might only be the early stages of a devastating epidemic with the potential to wipe out many of Madagascar’s unique frogs.

Stay tuned…

Links and more information:…/2015-02-amphibian-chytrid-fungus-madagasc……/bd-madagascar-franco-andreone/

The Story of Mitsinjo and the Greater Bamboo Lemur

By Rainer Dolch

The Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) is the largest of Madagascar’s bamboo-eating lemurs and one of the most threatened lemurs in Madagascar. For more than a century, it was believed to be extinct in almost all Madagascar, except for a remnant population in the south-east of the island.

The Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus), one of the most endangered primates in the world, is one of our target species that we have monitored at Torotorofotsy

The Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus), one of the most endangered primates in the world, is one of Mitsinjo’s focal species.

In 2004, thanks to the intrepid Jean Rafalimandimby, Mitsinjo excitingly discovered a new population of the Greater Bamboo Lemur in Torotorofotsy, reconfirming that this critically endangered bamboo specialist species still holds on in areas where it had gone unnoticed for so long.

Mitsinjo members Rafaly and Tiana Radio-tracking the Greater Bamboo Lemur at Torotorofotsy.

Mitsinjo members Rafaly and Tiana Radio-tracking the Greater Bamboo Lemur at Torotorofotsy.

Together with our partner organizations (The Aspinall FoundationConservation International, GERP), Mitsinjo designed and conducted methodical surveys into the Ankeniheny-Zahamena forest corridor (that lies to the north of Torotorofotsy) and into the Marolambo-Nosivolo area. With the invaluable help of local people in these areas, results have since yielded evidence for several further populations of this critically endangered lemur scattered throughout these forests.

Prolemur simus research and conservation actions undertaken by Mitsinjo 

– Rediscovered population at Torotorofotsy when the species was thought to have since been extinct outside southeast Madagascar.

– Conducted surveys for Prolemur simus in forest corridor further east and north of Torotorofotsy.

– Potential investigation further away in Makira and Tsinjoarivo (with Sadabe).

– Monitored population at Torotorofotsy for two years using radio-telemetry.

– Contributed to the formation of the Prolemur simus Working Group

We have also looked into the possible occurrence of the species in places as far away as Tsinjoarivo (with Sadabe) and Makira (with Simpona).

At the same time as we searched for new populations, Mitsinjo (in collaboration with the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership) radio-collared several animals in Torotorofotsy and, during two years of monitoring, gathered a wealth of data on their behaviour, and ecology that will help design an adequate conservation action plan Prolemur simus. Further research by our para-ecologist team focuses on collecting fecal samples for genetic analyses and on bamboo density necessary for the survival of the species.


The classic traces of the greater bamboo lemur: large piles of broken bamboo.

The species apparently requires very large home ranges. As a consequence, the Torotorofotsy population of Prolemur simus is not restricted to the Ramsar site of the same name but ventures out into areas being encroached by mining. Mitsinjo coordinates with both the Ambatovy nickel mine and the Izouard/Louys graphite mine in order to minimize possible impacts from their respective activities.

Greater Bamboo Lemur

Mitsinjo’s committment to saving the Greater Bamboo Lemur has since contributed to the formation of the Prolemur simus Working Group, kindly initiated by the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group.