Many people live in the surrounding areas of Durrell’s key rewilding sites across the globe, and they depend on the resources provided by these natural habitats. In Madagascar, the Durrell team works with local communities to protect important sites for biodiversity by supporting local people to join community-led patrol groups in these areas. The patrol groups record threats to wildlife, including fires, deforestation, trespassing, or illegal crop planting within the protected areas.
One of these important sites is the Menabe Antimena Protected Area. It is home to many rare species found only in this region, including the Malagasy giant jumping rat, flat-tailed tortoise, and Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur. These unique species are under threat from the illegal clearing of forest for corn and peanut plantations, as well as for boats, precious woods, and unauthorised woodcut for the daily use of villagers.
Bendray Zoemana, a ranger from Lambokely village in the Menabe Region, joined the patrols led by Durrell in 2015 to protect the dry forest of the Menabe Antimena Protected Area. The land surrounding Bendray’s village is a hotspot for illegal deforestation. Economic operators buy products from the corn and peanut plantations and encourage the local people to clear the forest in order to meet demand. Bendray and his team are responsible for reporting these actions in their patrol data.
Described as a brave and devoted leader, Bendray leads a team of six rangers in Lambokely. Each day, often in extremely dangerous situations, his team walks up to 27km looking out for illegal activity, which they record using an app called CyberTracker. CyberTracker is a picture-based smartphone app that allows local patrollers to record data from the field while overcoming low literacy levels.
In 2019, the rangers completed 115 patrols, with a total distance of 1,356km and 979 threats to wildlife reported. 50 of these patrols were led by Bendray. In July last year, Bendray‘s team discovered and extinguished a large forest fire, burning just 6km east of their village. A motivated and dedicated ranger, Bendray’s life is devoted to protecting the forest and encouraging others to do more to save this precious habitat. According to Bendray, we must all understand that “the forest is our future”.
The vital community patrols in the Menabe Antimena Protected Area are supported by the USAID Mikajy project, World Resources Institute, and the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, who support patrolling and rural development initiatives in the region.