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On the need for Mahaliana (Part1) - Advancing Conservation Research in Madagascar

Updated: May 30, 2018

Hey there! Mandroso! Welcome to Sci-Vaovao!

Sci-Vaovao is a blog where we will share the developing story of #Mahaliana, discuss our projects, questions and progress.

We invite you to join us in this unique adventure!

First, a short introduction.

My name is Fidy (Fidisoa Rasambainarivo, DVM, PhD). I am a wildlife veterinarian and researcher by training and now, together with Liz (Elizabeth Toomey, BA, CHES), co-founder of #Mahaliana, which makes us conservation entrepreneurs. Conservation entrepreneurship is this emerging industry that aims to address local conservation problems by using entrepreneurial skills and innovative methods (Buschke, 2015). Mahaliana is a startup company, and our hope is to contribute to the preservation of Madagascar's wildlife and empower Malagasy researchers to participate on the global scientific scene.

So, why do we need Mahaliana to advance biodiversity conservation in Madagascar?

I’m glad you asked ;-)

More than ever, conservation action requires the engagement of scientists from different disciplines to identify and address the complex threats facing habitats, plants and animals. Now, molecular techniques are playing an increasingly important role in conservation where they allow the identification of species for taxonomic and forensic purposes, the assessment of the #genetic diversity of isolated populations or are used to rapidly identify emerging infectious #diseases. Conservation scientists need to incorporate molecular methods into their study design, and the absence of facilities to perform these analyses in #Madagascar can lead to unnecessary delays in developing data-driven #conservation strategies.

“The absence of facilities [accessible molecular laboratories] in Madagascar can lead to unnecessary delays in developing conservation strategies”

For instance, two strategic conservation action plans developed for Madagascar's biodiversity (One for #lemurs [Schwitzer et al., 2013] and the other for #amphibians [Andreone et al., 2016]) draw on many scientific publications that help decision-makers:

- identify local and/or national risk factors,

- learn of new technologies that advance the science,

- assess conservation actions,

- prioritize objectives and

- implement a cohesive strategy.

For both of these documents, #molecular data have become a crucial element. However, for the most part, the necessary laboratory analyses can only be performed abroad and remain unavailable to the majority of Malagasy scientists.

Understandably, the exportation and importation of biological samples from endangered species is highly regulated and requires the acquisition of permits from both local and international agencies such as the Ministry of Environment, CITES (when applicable), USDA and Fish and Wildlife Service in the case of a shipment from Madagascar to the United States for example. Acquiring these permits can be cumbersome and time-consuming; it can delay analysis of the samples, the production and the publication of research results and, in some cases, hinder research efforts or even lead to terminating the research altogether.

#Mahaliana aims to change that. It is a veterinary and molecular ecology #laboratory that will advance conservation by facilitating research on the unique biodiversity of Madagascar.

Stay tuned for more vaovao!



Literature cited:

- Buschke, F. T. (2015). The startup culture of conservation entrepreneurship. Conservation Biology, 29(1), 300-302.

- Schwitzer, C., Mittermeier, R. A., Davies, N., Johnson, S., Ratsimbazafy, J., Razafindramanana, J., ... & Rajaobelina, S. (2013). Lemurs of Madagascar: A strategy for their conservation 2013–2016. Bristol, UK: IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group, Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, and Conservation International, 185.

- Andreone, F., IUCN, S., Rabemananjara, F. C., Nirhy, H. C., Hansen-Hendrikx, C. M., & Alliance, A. S. (2016). New Sahonagasy Action Plan 2016–2020.



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