Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, in collaboration with the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership (MBP), and supported by the Arbor Day Foundation, has planted its 4-millionth tree in Madagascar in celebration of Arbor Day. For 12 years, these reforestation efforts have been focused on providing habitat for lemurs, the most threatened group of primates in the world. Habitat loss is one of the biggest threats to all of Madagascar’s remaining lemur species.
The primary reforestation program is located in Kianjavato, a small community situated in southeastern Madagascar. The forest fragments surrounding Kianjavato are home to nine lemur species, including the critically endangered black-and-white ruffed lemur, which can be seen at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
In addition to the 4-millionth tree, another 20,100 trees were planted split between 10 communities (2,000 trees each), and 100 trees that the government officials and wildlife representatives planted at the field station, Kianjavato Ahmanson Field Station. A variety of native trees are planted to regrow lemur habitats, and in addition, timber and fruiting trees are planted to provide resources for the surrounding community. Local people voluntarily participate in weekly planting events organized by MBP employees. About 18,000 trees are typically planted every week.
MBP also supports more than 150 full-time Malagasy employees as field assistants, project supervisors, office employees, horticulturists and supporting field personnel. “From the project’s beginning, we have directly worked with the Madagascar community to provide them with the tools and opportunities they need to better their livelihoods, without it affecting their environment,” said Dr. Edward E. Louis Jr., Director of Conservation Genetics at the Zoo and founder of the MBP. “Restoring this relationship – between the people and nature – builds a sustainable community.”