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 5-millionth tree in Madagascar. Representatives from governmental and environmental agencies from across the region attended the special event. For 13 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 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 5-millionth tree, another 1,000 native trees were planted along a forest fragment that had been devastated by a recent cyclone. A variety of native trees are planted to regrow lemur habitats, while 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,” said Dr. Edward E. Louis Jr., Director of Conservation Genetics at the Zoo and founder of the MBP. “We are driving, and on track, to add a million trees to the Kianjavato region per year from now on, despite the cyclones and other hurdles placed in front of the Kianjavato community and MBP staff.”
MBP also supports more than 150 full-time Malagasy employees as field assistants, project supervisors, office employees, horticulturists and supporting field personnel. From MBP’s beginning, it has worked directly with the Madagascar community to provide them with the tools and opportunities they need to better their livelihoods, without it affecting the environment. Dr. Louis said, “Restoring this relationship – between the people and nature – builds a sustainable community.”
Community members can support more tree plantings and MBP staff by purchasing a commemorative t-shirt at www.bonfire.com/5-million-trees-amp-counting