Hike in Mitsinjo’s forest

Up and down we go, between trees and bushes and through dense vegetation. In some places, our guides have to use sharp machetes to open the way. We are walking in Mitsinjo Park, but this is not an ordinary tourist hike. A group of project coordinators and Mitsinjo’s forest experts is mapping out sites that were restored during the Manondroala project in 2012-2017. We are looking for areas for a new trail.


Molucca bramble (Rubus moluccanus) is an invasive species. It grows quickly creating large thickets, if not cleared away. Few native tree species manage to push through to reach the light.


Association Mitsinjo and its long-time partner FANC are now launching a new four-year project – Manondroala 2 – and the new trail will be a part of it. This trail is planned for experts of restoration and reforestation. There will be examples of different stages of succession as well as of techniques we have used to restore the forest. We will also show  how methods affect the results. Posters presenting the plan of the trail will be placed in the tree nursery in Farahevitra and next to Mitsinjo’s office in Ankahizinina. Later, an exhibition for researchers will be opened in Farahevitra with information on the restoration done by Mitsinjo. Together, the exhibition and the trail will form a reforestation training centre, where Mitsinjo will give trainings in forest restoration.


Premises for the exhibition for researchers will be built in Farahevitra


Seedlings of native trees in the nursery

Our walk in Mitsinjo Park was fruitful. We found interesting places that can be included in the trail. Its creation will begin during the next months. Stay tuned for updates!



Site locations were registered by using a GPS device


This area was previously degraded. Mitsinjo has planted trees and the forest is now returning.

Photos: Laura Blomberg, Ulla Aitakangas












Evaluation Report of Manondroala Project Available

Manondroala Evaluation Report 2018

An evaluation has been made of Manondroala, one of our joint projects with the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation. The report is now available for those interested and we are glad to have the opportunity to share it here.

The Manondroala project lasted six years from 2012 to the beginning of this year. The project focused on creating conditions for an effective monitoring system for preserving forests in Madagascar. This included strengthening of the national-level coordination network for nature protection and creation of a map of natural state of forests in Madagascar using satellite imagery and data collected from the field. The map will serve as a tool for monitoring the state of forests and as a basis for decision-making. Local level reforestation was also an essential part of the project. Restoration was carried out by Mitsinjo in Andasibe which is located in an important forest corridor area in eastern Madagascar.

The evaluation team found out that for the most part, the project has been successful in achieving its objectives. The monitoring network has been strengthened through trainings and a web portal has been opened. It will share the methodology developed during the project and the maps which have been produced. In reforestation, Mitsinjo has done excellent work and it has gained reputation as the most experienced professional in the field of forest restoration in Madagascar. Areas most crucial for the preservation of the Indri indri and some other sensitive species have been restored. The project has also succeeded in changing attitudes towards nature conservation among the population. People living in Andasibe are now more favourable to forest protection, partly due to creation of working opportunities by the project.

Considering the sustainability of the project, the evaluation team has come to the conclusion that most benefits can be maintained. Some tree planters and nurserymen may lose their jobs, because there is not enough work for them after the project has ended. A new project was a general wish expressed by beneficiaries. On the whole, the evaluators think that the project has been justified and needed. The monitoring tool is a great contribution to forest conservation in Madagascar and Mitsinjo’s activities have shown that reforestation can be successfully done with methods of ecological restoration.

Access the report here

Vote for us! Please help us to win a grant for our Indri lemur habitat restoration project!


Our project with Money for Madagascar has been shortlisted to receive funding of € 30,000 in a vote organised by EOCA (European Outdoor Conservation Association).


This project is really important. The Indri cannot survive without the forest and urgent action is needed to protect and restore the Indri Lemur’s threatened rainforest habitat by joining up isolated pockets of forest. This project will reforest 20ha of primary forest by planting wildlife corridors of 24,000 trees consisting of over 60 native species. The long term goal is to restore 290 ha of primary forest. The project will help Association Mitsinjo to generate funds for further reforestation by increasing the number of visitors to the park. Restoration of 4km of existing rough trails and the creation of 4km of new trails will improve the available guided tours. The new route will take visitors into heart of the forest to a hidden lake, to see the wide range of birds and amphibians. Training in responsible agriculture and alternative income generating activities will reduce the need for families living around the forest to engage in slash and burn agriculture.

This is an international competition and there are many other candidates. To win we need to get tens of thousands of votes. Voting closes on the 22nd of October. 


Voting is easy and costs you nothing. It could make a huge difference to the future of the endangered Indri lemur and the communities who live around the forest.

Thank you for your support!

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.

Recent Achievements in Conservation Frog Breeding

By Sebastian Wolf

In early 2016 Mitsinjo’s frog team brought several new, locally occurring frog species into the breeding facility, some of which had never been kept in captivity before.

After acclimatization we were curious when or if they would start breeding. Natural reproduction period of most local frogs starts with the first rains in December or January, yet the 2016-2017 season has been different due to the fact that rain was largely missing until now. Fortunately, Mitsinjo’s captive frogs did not care about this dry “wet season” as they continued to overwhelm us with eggs. All species in our facility except of one at least produced eggs and tadpoles and the first young tadpoles have successfully metamorphosed into froglets by now (sometimes incredibly tiny creatures like the one in the picture, an already 3 week old Platypelis barbouri which is roughly 4 mm in size).

Platypelis barbouri was one of the new species Mitsinjo acclimated to captivity in 2016.

Platypelis barbouri was one of the new species Mitsinjo acclimated to captivity in 2016.

There are two crucial issues in frog breeding: finding out which climatic and microhabitat conditions trigger reproduction, and caring for – often plenty – of froglets that need large quantities of small prey insects. Small changes in cage design (what scientists and zookeepers call structural enrichment) finally did the trick with Mitsinjo’s frogs and immediately resulted in egg-laying.

Having the world’s first captive bred animals of a certain species is exciting, yet not the end oft he effort. Aside from successfully raising froglets to mature individuals once, the next step should always be to breed the captive frogs into the next generation(s). This already worked out with our flagship species, the Golden Mantella where some of our second generation captive animals will soon be released at ponds within their natural distribution range. Among the species we bred for the first time were some elusive microhylids, a conspicuous bright-eye treefrog and a mantellid frog that has no free-swimming tadpole stage but where eggs develop into froglets inside the egg capsules – we call this the low-budget frog as it does not need to be fed during its larval stage.

The golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) population at the breeding facility helps ensure the species survives in the wild.

The golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) population at the breeding facility helps ensure the species survives in the wild.

Looking at the recent efforts raises our hope that we are capable of breeding other endemic species as well, in case of any emergency event that needs immediate rescue or mitigation action. Aside from husbandry experiments that we conduct to steadily improve care and maintenance protocols, the next big thing will be running breeding trials with more stream-breeding frogs as they are an important part of the frog fauna in rainforests here and can be quite demanding in some aspects.

Raising healthy  frogs also requires vitamin and mineral supplements and proper food for tadpoles. Two companies thankfully provided free food and minerals for this breeding season (Aquarium Muenster and Keweloh Animal Health).