To summarize, our work is based around the monitoring of our primates and other wildlife (and sometimes formal research); monitoring sea turtles from October to February, the propagation and planting of trees and shrubs and growing food; the maintenance of the built environment, and the education of local people.
Those are our main activities:
We maintain close contact with our lemurs at all times. It is vital to have well habituated animals in the reserve, not frightened by humans, to enable us to easily monitor population sizes and general health of the animals. Habituation is also very important for those times when we have researchers working at the reserve. It is much easier to observe the lemurs and collect data if they don't constantly flee. Follows and observational walks are done during the day and also at night. We don't pretend that this is research. It's habituation. Do you want to run a research project? Contact us.
The study of how the biological world times natural events is called phenology. Species use the predictable yearly changes in climate to determine when they start natural events such as breeding or flowering. It is important for us to constantly improve our understanding of phenology in the reserve by recording which trees and shrubs are in flower at which time. This helps us to better plan seed collecting programs, and most importantly, it helps us to best plan replanting programs. It is very important to us that when working on reforestation or forest enhancement in areas previously logged or damaged by cyclones etc, that we strive to provide food all-year-round for our wildlife.
Seed collecting and nursery work
With our understanding of phenology in our forest, we collect and propagate seeds for future replanting. We concentrate on plants that are either eaten by our wildlife, or are endangered because they have been overcollected in the past (mainly palms and vines), have practical uses such as fast-growing species to use as pioneers to quickly fill gaps after cyclones, or, coastal species that are needed for enhancing or re-establishment of dune vegetation after heavy seas. This work involves collecting the seeds, cleaning them, and then working in the nursery to fill pots with soil and potting up the seeds.
I think you are probably now beginning to see the flow. So once the seeds are collected and grown on in the nursery, once they are big enough, we plant them out. Some are reserved for emergencies such as post cyclone, but tree planting for forest enhancement is an ongoing process. All of the above processes also work for the mangroves that surround the western border of the reserve, but some of the techniques are different for mangroves, requiring volunteers to travel with staff in canoes around the river collecting and planting the mangroves.
Construction and maintenance
Constant maintenance of all built structures is vital in our environment. We need to constantly maintain buildings, signs, gates, nursery, gardens, etc. This may require some basic construction but most likely it is work such as scraping, painting, oiling, etc. There are times when we have more important construction work going on and we will make that clear at the time that you apply, if we think that there will be significant manual work required.
The forest wants to take back what is rightly hers, but, to maintain a safe environment for us, our staff, our guards, our visitors and our volunteers, and to enable us to monitor the forest and wildlife well, we maintain about three kilometres of paths around and through the reserve. These paths are vital and it is constant work keeping them clear. We also sometimes enhance the edges of trails with native species.
There is always a rainy day or a day when everyone is tired, when it is much preferable to sit around the camp working on less strenuous things. We have small environmental education projects constantly in development. These may be for the local school, they may be interpretative (such as working out how to illustrate conservation messages to illiterate adults via clever sign writing) or they may be for a wider audience. We provide tools and support but these projects depend to an enormous extent on the enthusiasm of the volunteers to work with our staff to create them.
Sea Turtle monitoring
Seasonal from October to February, we struggle to maintain good information about the sea turtle populations nesting on our beach. They are killed for meat by local people, and nests are dug up. This is specialist work in the sense that it is only possible during the night (but anyone can do it), so we find it difficult to attract volunteers for this work. Because we cannot fund one on one staff to volunteer ratio, this work is only possible if we have more than one volunteer willing to work at night monitoring turtles.
It's busy, it's fun, it can be hard work but it's always satisfying. You work with a lovely bunch of local people and the more volunteers we have, the more locals we can employ. Come help us. We need you.