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.

DOI: 10.1007/s10764-017-9969-6

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Cite this paper

@article{Reibelt2017ContactML, title={Contact Matters: Local People’s Perceptions of Hapalemur alaotrensis and Implications for Conservation}, author={Lena M. Reibelt and Lance G. Woolaver and Gabrielle Moser and Ihoby H. Randriamalala and Lucile M. Raveloarimalala and Fidy B. Ralainasolo and Jonah H. Ratsimbazafy and Patrick O Waeber}, journal={International Journal of Primatology}, year={2017}, volume={38}, pages={588-608} }