Thanks to the Go Abroad fund, I was able to join a conservation project in Madagascar with Operation Wallacea. I spent two weeks collecting biodiversity data for the area and was taught how to identify species of lemurs, snakes, geckos, insects and birds. Most of these species are endemic to Madagascar due to the island’s long period of evolutionary isolation. These endemic species can not be found anywhere else in the world, hence why I believe their natural habitat should be preserved. Operation Wallacea works with the local community to conserve the landscape in a sustainable way. These community managed areas are aiming to achieve conservation without costing the local people to lose their livelihoods, but instead to benefit the local people and the environment simultaneously. The data I helped to collect is used to continually monitor the impact of the conservation efforts in the area. Based on this data, Operation Wallacea can assess the efficacy of their methods, allowing them to develop and improve.
My time on the project was a great insight into the difficulties faced by conservationists and how to overcome them. In the past, conservation projects have failed because the people in charge have neglected to recognise the needs of the local people. I have learnt that offering alternative livelihoods and working with and supporting the local community is much more sustainable than to ignore the reliance the locals have on their natural resources. It is only by working with the local community and respecting cultural differences that we can achieve long lasting conservation.
Finally, I would like to thank the Go Abroad fund for enabling me to have such an eye-opening and valuable experience.