Contact Matters: Local People’s Perceptions of Hapalemur alaotrensis and Implications for Conservation

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

References

  1. Agrawal, A., & Gibson, C. C. (1999). Enchantment and disenchantment: The role of community in natural resource conservation. World Development, 27, 629–649.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Alexander, S. (2000). Resident attitudes toward conservation and black howler monkeys in Belize: The community baboon sanctuary. Environmental Conservation, 27(4), 341–350.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Andrianandrasana, H. T., Randriamahefasoa, J., Durbin, J., Lewis, R. E., & Ratsimbazafy, J. H. (2005). Participatory ecological monitoring of the Alaotra wetlands in Madagascar. Biodiversity and Conservation, 14, 2757–2774.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bakoariniaina, L. N., Kusky, T., & Raharimahefa, T. (2006). Disappearing Lake Alaotra: Monitoring catastrophic erosion, waterway silting, and land degradation hazards in Madagascar using Landsat imagery. Journal of African Earth Science, 44, 241–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Ballhorn, D. J., Rakotoarivelo, F. P., & Kautz, S. (2016). Coevolution of cyanogenic bamboos and bamboo lemurs on Madagascar. PloS One, 11(8), e0158935.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. Bernard, H. R. (2006). Research methods in anthropology: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (3rd ed.). Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Brody, S. D., Highfield, W., & Alston, L. (2004). Does location matter? Measuring environmental perceptions of creeks in two San Antonio watersheds. Environment and Behavior, 36(2), 229–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Chawla, L. (1998). Significant life experiences revisited: A review of research on sources of environmental sensitivity. Journal of Environmental Education, 29, 11–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Copsey, J. A., Jones, J. P. G., Andrianandrasana, H. T., Rajaonarison, L. H., & Fa, J. E. (2009a). Burning to fish: Local explanations for wetland burning in lac Alaotra, Madagascar. Oryx, 43, 403–406.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Copsey, J. A., Rajaonarison, L. H., Randriamihamina, R., & Rakotoniaina, L. J. (2009b). Voices from the marsh: Livelihood concerns of fishers and rice cultivators in the Alaotra wetland. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 4(1), 24–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Dolins, F. L., Jolly, A., Rasamimanana, H., Ratsimbazafy, J., Feistner, A. T. C., et al (2010). Conservation education in Madagascar: three case studies in the biologically diverse island-continent. American Journal of Primatology, 72(5), 391–406.

  12. Drury, R., Homewood, K., & Randall, S. (2011). Less is more: The potential of qualitative approaches in conservation research. Animal Conservation, 14, 18–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Fiallo, E. A., & Jacobson, S. K. (1995). Local communities and protected areas: Attitudes of rural residents towards conservation and Machalilla National Park, Ecuador. Environmental Conservation, 22(3), 241–249.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Gandiwa, E. (2012). Local knowledge and perceptions of animal population abundances by communities adjacent to the northern Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe. Tropical Conservation Science, 5(3), 255–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Ganzhorn, J. U., Lowry, P. P., Schatz, G. E., & Sommer, S. (2001). The biodiversity of Madagascar: One of the world’s hottest hotspots on its way out. Oryx, 35(4), 346–348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Gardner, C. J., & Davies, Z. G. (2014). Rural bushmeat consumption within multiple-use protected areas: Qualitative evidence from southwest Madagascar. Human Ecology, 42, 21–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Golden, C. D. (2009). Bushmeat hunting and use in the Makira Forest, north-eastern Madagascar: A conservation and livelihoods issue. Oryx, 43(3), 386–392.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Hill, C. M. (1998). Conflicting attitudes towards elephants around the Budongo Forest reserve, Uganda. Environmental Conservation, 25(3), 244–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Hill, C. M., & Webber, A. D. (2010). Perceptions of nonhuman primates in human–wildlife conflict scenarios. American Journal of Primatology, 72(10), 919–924.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. INSTAT. (2012). Institut National de la Statistique de Madagascar. http://instat.mg/?option=com_content&view=article&id=33&Itemid=56 (Accessed March 16, 2016).

  21. IUCN. (2014). Andriaholinirina, N., Baden, A., Blanco, M., Chikhi, L., et al. (2014) Hapalemur alaotrensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. doi: 10.2305/iucn.uk.2014-1.rlts.t9676a16119362.en (Accessed March 16, 2016).

  22. Jenkins, R. K. B., Keane, A., Rakotoarivelo, A. R., Rakotomboavonjy, V., Randrianandrianina, F. H., et al (2011). Analysis of patterns of bushmeat consumption reveals extensive exploitation of protected species in eastern Madagascar. PloS One, 6(12), e27570.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  23. Kaufmann, J. C., & Tsirahamba, S. (2006). Forests and thorns: Conditions of change affecting Mahafale pastoralists in southwestern Madagascar. Conservation and Society, 4, 231–261.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Keller, E. (2009). The danger of misunderstanding ‘culture’. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 4(2), 82–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Korhonen, K., & Lappalainen, A. (2004). Examining the environmental awareness of children and adolescents in the Ranomafana region, Madagascar. Environmental Education Research, 10, 195–216.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Lamnek, S. (2005). Qualitative Sozialforschung (4th edition). Weinheim: Lehrbuch. Beltz.

  27. Lee, P. C., & Priston, N. E. (2005). Human attitudes to primates: Perceptions of pests, conflict and consequences for primate conservation. Commensalism and conflict: The human-primate interface, 4, 1–23.

  28. Lingard, M., Raharison, N., Rabakonandrianina, E., Rakotoarisoa, J.-A., & Elmqvist, T. (2003). The role of local taboos in conservation and management of species: The radiated tortoise in southern Madagascar. Conservation and Society, 1, 223–246.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Maminirina, C. P., Girod, P., & Waeber, P. O. (2006). Comic strips as environmental educative tools for the Alaotra region. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 1(1), 11–14.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Marcus, R. (2001). Seeing the forest for the trees: Integrated conservation and development projects and local perceptions of conservation in Madagascar. Human Ecology, 29, 381–397.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Mehta, J. N., & Kellert, S. R. (1998). Local attitudes toward community-based conservation policy and programmes in Nepal: A case study in the Makalu-Barun conservation area. Environmental Conservation, 25(4), 320–333.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Mittermeier, R. A., Tattersall, I., Konstant, W. R., Meyers, D. M., Mast, R. B., & Nash, S. D. (1994). Lemurs of Madagascar. Washington, DC: Conservation International.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Mittermeier, R. A., Ganzhorn, J. U., Konstant, W. R., Glander, K., Tattersall, I., et al (2008). Lemur diversity in Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology, 29(6), 1607–1656.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Mittermeier, R. E., Louis Jr., E. E., Langrand, O., Schwitzer, C., Gauthier, C. A., et al (2014). Lémuriens de Madagascar. In Publications scientifiques du Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle. Paris: Conservation International.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Muth, R. M., & Bowe Jr., J. F. (1998). Illegal harvest of renewable natural resources in North America: Toward a typology of the motivations for poaching. Society & Natural Resources, 11(1), 9–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Mutschler, T., & Feistner, A. T. C. (1995). Conservation status and distribution of the Alaotran gentle lemur Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis. Oryx, 29, 267–274.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Mutschler, T., Feistner, A. T. C., & Nievergelt, C. M. (1998). Preliminary field data on group size, diet and activity in the Alaotran gentle lemur Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis. Folia Primatologica, 69(5), 325–330.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Mutschler, T., Randrianarisoa, A. J., & Feistner, A. T. C. (2001). Population status of the Alaotran gentle lemur Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis. Oryx, 35, 152–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Myers, N., Mittermeier, R. A., Mittermeier, C. G., Da Fonseca, G. A., & Kent, J. (2000). Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature, 403(6772), 853–858.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Nepal, S., & Spiteri, A. (2011). Linking livelihoods and conservation: An examination of local residents’ perceived linkages between conservation and livelihood benefits around Nepal’s Chitwan national park. Environmental Management, 47(5), 727–738.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Newhouse, N. (1990). Implications of attitude and behavior research for environmental conservation. Journal of Environmental Education, 2(1), 26–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Nyaupane, G. P., & Poudel, S. (2011). Linkages among biodiversity, livelihood, and tourism. Annuals of Tourism Research, 38(4), 1344–1366.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Oli, M. K., Taylor, I. R., & Rogers, M. E. (1994). Snow leopard Panthera uncia predation of livestock: An assessment of local perceptions in the Annapurna conservation area, Nepal. Biological Conservation, 68(1), 63–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Parry, D., & Campbell, B. (1992). Attitudes of rural communities to animal wildlife and its utilization in Chobe enclave and Mababe depression, Botswana. Environmental Conservation, 19(3), 245–252.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Rajecki, D. W. (1982). Attitudes: Themes and advances. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Rakotoarisoa, T. F., Waeber, P. O., Richter, T., & Mantilla Contreras, J. (2015). Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), opportunity or threat for the Alaotra wetlands and livelihoods. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 10(S3), 128–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Rakotomamonjy, S. N., Jones, J. P. G., Razafimanahaka, J. H., Ramamonjisoa, B., & Williams, S. J. (2015). The effects of environmental education on children’s and parents’ knowledge and attitudes towards lemurs in rural Madagascar. Animal Conservation, 18(2), 157–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Ralainasolo, F. B. (2004). Influence des effets anthropiques sur la dynamique de la population de Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis ou “Bandro” dans son habitat naturel. Lemur News, 9, 32–35.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Ralainasolo, F. B., Waeber, P. O., Ratsimbazafy, J., Durbin, J., & Lewis, R. (2006). The Alaotra gentle lemur: Population estimation and subsequent implications. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 1(1), 9–10.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Ramanantsoa, G. A. (1984). The Malagasy and the chameleon: A traditional view of nature. In A. Jolly, P. Oberlé, & R. Albignac (Eds.), Key environments: Madagascar. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Ranarijaona, H. L. T. (2007). Concept de modèle écologique pour la zone humide Alaotra. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 2, 35–42.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Ratsimbazafy, J. (2003). Lemurs as the most appropriate and best didactic tool for teaching. Lemur News, 8, 19–21.

  53. Ratsimbazafy, J. R., Ralainasolo, F. B., Rendigs, A., Mantilla-Contreras, J., Andrianandrasana, H., et al (2013). Gone in a puff of smoke? Hapalemur alaotrensis at great risk of extinction. Lemur News, 17, 14–18.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Reibelt, L. M., Richter, T., Waeber, P. O., Rakotoarimanana, S. H. N. H., & Mantilla Contreras, J. (2014). Environmental education in its infancy at Lake Alaotra, Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 9(2), 71–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Reibelt, L. M., Richter, T., Rendigs, A., & Mantilla Contreras, J. (2017). Malagasy conservationists and environmental educators: Life paths into conservation. Sustainability, 9(2), 227.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Rendigs, A., Reibelt, L. M., Ralainasolo, F. B., Ratsimbazafy, J. H., & Waeber, P. O. (2015). Ten years into the marshes–Hapalemur alaotrensis conservation, one step forward and two steps back? Madagascar Conservation & Development, 10(1), 13–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Reuter, K. E., Gilles, H., Wills, A. R., & Sewall, B. J. (2016). Live capture and ownership of lemurs in Madagascar: Extent and conservation implications. Oryx, 50(2), 344–354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. Salafsky, N., & Wollenberg, N. (2000). Linking livelihoods and conservation: A conceptual framework and scale for assessing the integration of human needs and biodiversity. World Development, 28(8), 1421–1438.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  59. Schwitzer, C., Mittermeier, R. A., Davies, N., Johnson, S., Ratsimbazafy, J., et al (2013). Lemurs of Madagascar: A strategy for their conservation 2013–2016. Bristol: IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, and Conservation International.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Setchell, J. M., Fairet, E., Shutt, K., Waters, S., & Bell, S. (2016). Biosocial conservation: Integrating biological and ethnographic methods to study human–primate interactions. International Journal of Primatology. doi:10.1007/s10764-016-9938-5.

  61. Shibia, M. G. (2010). Determinants of attitudes and perceptions on resource use and management of Marsabit National Reserve, Kenya. Journal of Human Ecology, 30(1), 55–62.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Steinmetz, R., Srirattanaporn, S., Mor-Tip, J., & Seuaturien, N. (2014). Can community outreach alleviate poaching pressure and recover wildlife in south-east Asian protected areas? Journal of Applied Ecology, 51, 1469–1478.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Tattersall, I. (2013). Understanding species-level primate diversity in Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 8(1), 7–11.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Thalmann, U. (2006). Lemurs: Ambassadors for Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 1(1), 4–8.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Urech, Z. L., Felber, H. R., & Sorg, J.-P. (2012). Who wants to conserve remaining forest fragments in the Manompana corridor? Madagascar Conservation & Development, 7(3), 135–143.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Waeber, P. O., & Wilmé, L. (2013). Madagascar rich and intransparent. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 8, 52–54.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Waeber, P. O., Wilmé, L., Ramamonjisoa, B., Garcia, C., Rakotomalala, D., et al (2015). Dry forests in Madagascar: Neglected and under pressure. International Forestry Review, 17(S2), 127–148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  68. Waeber, P. O., Wilmé, L., Mercier, J.-R., Camara, C., & Lowry, P. P. (2016). How effective have thirty years of internationally driven conservation and development efforts been in Madagascar? PloS One, 11(8), e0161115.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  69. Waeber, P. O., Ratsimbazafy, J. H., Andrianandrasana, H., Ralainasolo, F. B., & Nievergelt, C. M. (2017a). Hapalemur alaotrensis, a conservation case study from the swamps of Alaotra, Madagascar. In Primates in flooded habitats: Ecology and conservation. Cambridge University Press. In press.

  70. Waeber, P. O., Ralainasolo, F. B., Ratsimbazafy, J. H., & Nievergelt, C. M. (2017b). Consequences of lakeside living for the diet and social ecology of the Alaotran gentle lemur. In Primates in flooded habitats: Ecology and conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. In press.

  71. Waeber, P. O., Reibelt, L. M., Randriamalala, I. H., Moser, G., Raveloarimalala, L. M., et al (2017c). Local awareness and perceptions: Consequences for conservation of marsh habitat at Lake Alaotra for one of the world’s rarest lemurs. Oryx. doi:10.1017/S0030605316001198.

  72. Wallace, A. P. C., Milner-Gulland, E. J., Jones, J. P. G., Bunnefeld, N., et al (2015). Quantifying the short-term costs of conservation interventions for fishers at Lake Alaotra, Madagascar. PloS One, 10(6), e0129440.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  73. Wallace, A. P. C., Jones, J. P., Milner-Gulland, E. J., Wallace, G. E., et al (2016). Drivers of the distribution of fisher effort at Lake Alaotra, Madagascar. Human Ecology, 44(1), 105–117.

    Article  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  74. Waylen, K. A., McGowan, P. J. K., Pawi Study Group, & Milner-Gulland, E. J. (2009). Ecotourism positively affects awareness and attitudes but not conservation behaviours: A case study at Grande Riviere, Trinidad. Oryx, 43(3), 343–351.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  75. Wilmé, L., Waeber, P. O., Moutou, F., Gardner, C. J., et al (2016). A proposal for ethical research conduct in Madagascar. Madagascar Conservation & Development, 11(1), 36–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  76. Wu, H., & Mweemba, L. (2010). Environmental self-efficacy, attitude and behavior among small scale farmers in Zambia. Environment, Development and Sustainability, 12(5), 727–744.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  77. Zhang, W., Goodale, E., & Chen, J. (2014). How contact with nature affects children’s biophilia, biophobia and conservation attitude in China. Biological Conservation, 177, 109–116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Lena M. Reibelt or Patrick O. Waeber.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests.

Additional information

Handling Editor: Joanna M. Setchell

Electronic supplementary material

ESM 1

(DOCX 106 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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

Download citation

Keywords

  • Awareness
  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation
  • Lemurs
  • Livelihoods
  • Madagascar
  • Stakeholders
  • Values
  • Wetlands