Understanding factors that influence local community support for conservation projects is critical to their success. Perceptions of wildlife are particularly important in countries where people rely heavily on natural resources for their survival, as is the case in Madagascar. Renowned as one of the “hottest” regions for global biodiversity, Madagascar hosts an exceptional assemblage of lemurs. Yet little is known concerning the knowledge and perceptions of local people toward lemurs. The Lake Alaotra gentle lemur (Hapalemur alaotrensis) is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List and restricted to marsh habitat in the Lake Alaotra New Protected Area. Habitat destruction and hunting have brought the lemur to the brink of extinction. In this study we characterize local people’s knowledge, awareness, and perceptions of Hapalemur alaotrensis. We conducted an initial survey with 180 participants in 6 villages with varying distance to Park Bandro, a high-priority conservation zone. During a second survey, we interviewed 50 people in the village adjacent to the park. Our findings demonstrate that fishers are the most knowledgeable local resource users despite having the lowest education levels, and they also are the most concerned with the endemic lemur’s decline. There is a link between environmental awareness and distance in both a literal and figurative sense; the more often people encounter Hapalemur alaotrensis, the more they know about it, and the more likely they are to be concerned about its future. Our study further shows that despite this concern, subsistence is prioritized over conservation in the Alaotra region. Ecological knowledge in the fishers’ communities is a valuable resource that can benefit the conservation of Hapalemur alaotrensis and its marshland habitat if conservation planning and management can align the resource users’ concerns and livelihood needs with biodiversity values.
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We thank all study participants and our research assistants Vanessa Gisèle Aimée Rakotomalala and Olivier Pascal Randriamanjakahasina. The support of the regional authorities Kiady Rakotondravoninala (regional director of the Ministry of Environment, Ecology, Sea and Forests), Samuel Razafindrabe (regional director of the Ministry of Agriculture) and Herilalaina Andrianantenaina (regional director of the Ministry of Fisheries) is acknowledged. Thanks to the two anonymous reviewers whose comments helped to improve the article and a special thanks to the editor-in-chief for her great support and editing. This research was funded by the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation under research grant PR15-021, and the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development under research grant IZ01Z0_146852 as part of the AlaReLa Alaotra Resilience Landscape project.
L. M. Reibelt, P. O. Waeber, and I. H. Randriamalala conceived and designed the study. I. H. Randriamalala, L. M. Raveloarimalala, and F. B. Ralainasolo administered the questionnaires. G. Moser, L. M. Reibelt, and P. O. Waeber analyzed the data. L. M. Reibelt, L. Woolaver, P. O. Waeber, G. Moser, I. H. Randriamalala, and J. Ratsimbazafy wrote the article.
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Reibelt, L.M., Woolaver, L., Moser, G. et al. Contact Matters: Local People’s Perceptions of Hapalemur alaotrensis and Implications for Conservation. Int J Primatol 38, 588–608 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-017-9969-6