Sometimes a true conservation leader emerges where they are needed most. Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka is one such leader and has become a truly inspirational figure leading the charge to protect some of Madagascar’s richest forests and the species–such as the Golden Mantella and the striking Indri Lemur—that call them home. Julie approaches her mission with boundless energy and enthusiasm.
Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka, in white, meets with local community members to discuss a project. Photo © Robin Moore
Julie didn’t always aspire to work in conservation. As a child, she wanted to be a farmer, but when she was given the opportunity to study at University, she elected ecological studies so she could spend time in the field.
“I love travelling, and being surrounded by nature inspires me. I always feel happier and healthier when I’m in the field,” she says.
A Golden Mantella hops across the forest floor in Mangabe. Photo © Robin Moore
Julie advanced quickly in her career, becoming a young director of Madagasikara Voakajy, a Malagasy group, and Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA) partner, working at the intersection of people and their natural environment and protecting forests while improving the quality of life for local communities.
“I really love it when our research findings lead directly into conservation actions that improve the standard of life in the villages where we work,” Julie says.
In June of 2014, Julie was awarded the prestigious Marsh Award by Fauna and Flora International (FFI).
“The mission of the awards is to recognize those special people and organizations who are having a profound impact on conservation activities where they operate,” FFI Deputy Chief Executive Ros Aveling says.
The forests of Mangabe, which Julie and her organization are working to protect. Photo © Robin Moore
Julie has chosen to focus her energies on an area of lush forest in Mangabe, in eastern Madagascar, home to one of Madagascar’s most beautiful and threatened frogs: the Golden Mantella. The forests are also home to at least 21 other amphibian species and nine lemur species, including the country’s largest and most, the Indri. By night the forests comes alive with such creatures as aye-aye, sportive lemurs, dwarf lemurs, mouse lemurs, and a kaleidoscopic assortment of chameleons.
A dwarf chameleon, Brookesia therezieni, found in the forests of Mangabe. Photo © Robin Moore
Julie and her organization have been working since 2007 to establish 24,000 hectares of forest habitat—containing more than half of all breeding ponds for the Golden Mantella–as a Protected Area. GWC is raising funds to help them achieve that goal by May 2015, before the government opens the area for mining.
By working closely with local communities–and organizing a festival each year in which people don mantella and indri costumes–Julie and team are helping to foster pride in these unique inhabitants of the forest and achieve forest conservation that elevates standards of living among local people.
Golden Mantella, Indri Lemur
Remnant cloud forest