Malagasy baobab champion nominated for international award

Posted on by Sarah Pocock

 

Director of GTC partner in Madagascar, Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka, has been nominated for the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa.

The award nomination recognises the sixteen years of dedication that Julie has given to conserving Madagascar’s threatened species. As director of Madagasikara Voakajy (MV) – a Malagasy NGO working to safeguard the future of Madagascar’s unique and threatened wildlife – Julie has, among other achievements, been key to the establishment of four protected areas in eastern Madagascar and has led MV in improving the long-term prospects for Madagascar’s three threatened baobab species.

Under the GTC, Fauna & Flora International has been working with MV to conserve threatened baobabs since 2008, initially with a focus on Grandidier’s baobab (Adansonia grandidieri) and since 2011, Diego’s baobab (A. suarezensis) and Perrier’s baobab (A. perrieri). Range restriction due to habitat loss, fires and unsustainable grazing affect all three species, with Grandidier’s baobab also at risk from the rising demand for baobab fruit internationally, since it was promoted as a ‘superfood’ due to its high concentration of Vitamin C. Julie has led MV’s work with communities to protect these species in situ. The core approach has been supporting local people to secure co-management rights over key baobab forests and helping communities to implement this management.

Now, over ten thousand hectares of baobab forest have secure management rights, offering protection that previously did not exist. This has led to increased adult tree survival and collective planting of over 3,000 baobab saplings into the wild.

Community members planting Perrier’s baobab in northern Madagascar. Credit: Tonisoa Ivandry/MV

Julie Razafimanahaka’s interest in conservation was sparked by a childhood encounter with her first lemur during a camping trip. Her association with CLP began in 2004 when she worked as a research student on a Malagasy bat project funded by the programme. A subsequent CLP travel grant to visit the UK increased her confidence by exposing her to a cosmopolitan, English-speaking research environment.

In 2007, Julie was recognised by the UK government’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as one of Madagascar’s most promising conservation scientists and she received funding to study an MSc in Applied Ecology and Conservation at the University of East Anglia.

Back in Madagascar, Julie rose rapidly through the ranks. In 2011 she became Director of Madagasikara Voakajy, the very same organisation for which she had worked in her student days and which was established in 2005 with CLP support. Today, Julie manages a team of 40 staff at this leading national NGO, which uses conservation science and community participation to protect endemic Malagasy species and their habitats.

Julie training a Madagascar survey team on GPS use in 2006. Credit: Daudet Andriafidison/MV

Julie is widely acknowledged as an outstanding motivational leader, a skilled scientist and a great communicator, liaising with key senior stakeholders including community leaders, government officials, scientists and donors. She has previously won the Marsh Award for Conservation Leadership and the Young Women Conservation Biologists Award.

Under Julie’s leadership, Madagasikara Voakajy has been instrumental in the creation of seven protected areas in eastern Madagascar, boosting the survival prospects of myriad amphibians, bats, lemurs and other threatened species. Her many claims to fame include spearheading the first conservation strategy for Madagascar’s iconic baobab trees to promote sustainable harvesting and efficient use of baobab fruits to generate social, economic and biodiversity benefits. This collaboration has successfully secured management rights for over 10,000 hectares of baobab forest that were previously completely unprotected.

Congratulations to Julie for her nomination, and we thank her for her commitment and efforts to safeguard the future of Malagasy wildlife.

This article has been adapted from the original article posted on Fauna & Flora International’s website.

Written by Sarah Pocock

Sarah is the Programme Officer for Plant Conservation at FFI. With an MSc in biodiversity conservation and a background in plant science, Sarah is keen to get people excited about botanical conservation.

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