I am one of the National Geographic Emerging Explorers and I am a conservation scientist. One of the winners of the Hands-On Explorer Challenge in 2009, Pete, recently sent me a question about my work. I hope other kids will send me questions about my conservation efforts in Madagascar, and any questions you have about exploration in general!
Please read the blog and send in your questions in the comments below!
Pete’s Questions: Are you in Madagascar yet? If so, what are you hoping to learn or explore in this expedition? How long are you going to be in Madagascar?
I’m in Madagascar now and we’re staying really busy in the forest (called Ankarafantsika National Park). We’re trapping for the fossa (also spelled fosa) here, while also doing census of all the other animals in the forest like lemurs, birds, snakes, lizards, and chameleons.
We spend about half our time doing research and half our time working
with local communities to conduct and improve conservation and
development programs here.
This year we’re working on things like:
-Helping local people build businesses for ecotourists that come to
-Getting all the local kids in to schools
-Teaching some English classes
-Making the first documentation of villages’ family trees (along with
family and personal portraits)
-Working with a sister organization (The Ankizy Fund) to host 20
dentists from the USA and Madagascar running free mobile dental clinics.
The dentists are traveling all around the country, but always come here
for a few days, too. When they’re here, the dentists see around 200
people a day for free dental care. Their work is really important,
because there aren’t any dentists out in the countryside here.
hot topics for conservation that we’re also working on are reducing the
number of animals hit by cars, and the impact of invasive species that
don’t naturally belong in this park. We’re counting the number of
animals hit by cars each day (usually speeding cars) along the road that
goes through part of the park. That helps us to convince the local park
service to install more speed bumps to make people slow down as they’re
driving through on the road that goes through part of Ankarafantsika.
Also, there’s a big lake near the center of the park called Lake
Ravelobe. It has several important aquatic animals (fish, turtles) that
live in it. Over the last 6 months, though, the number of hyacinths in
the lake has exploded. Almost half the lake is covered by these plants
now! That’s a big problem because sunlight then doesn’t get through to
the water, which can interrupt or impact the life cycle of things living
in the water.
My big worry is that not only might we lose some of the
smaller animals that live in the lake because of this, but the biggest
animals living there–the crocodiles–might not have enough food. The
last time the crocs didn’t have enough food in Lake Ravelobe was ten
years ago. When that happened before, the crocs started eating people! I
bet you can see why I’m worried about those plants on top of the water
that don’t belong there now!
What do you want to know about Madagascar and the plants and animals here?