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Conservation
There are four “zoos” in Madagascar: Tsimbazaza in Tana, Croc Farm in Tana, Lemurs Park in Tana, and Parc D’Ivolina in Tamatave. Each place has a unique feel and mission. Tsimbazaza fulfils some of the dreams of American zoo directors- it has a natural history museum, cultural exhibits and a botanical garden all within the premises of the zoo. Soon the national entomology collection will be erected on the zoo grounds thanks to Brian Fischer of California Institute of Technology. The Tsimbazaza Zoo was created in 1921 by a French colonist, but was, like everything else, turned over to the Malagasy after the revolution in the 1970s. By many standards, the national zoo has a collection that zoos in the rest of the world would drool over. In addition to most of the lemur species, the zoo houses the very endangered Madagascar Fish Eagle, and has several aye-aye. The only exotic animals in the zoo are the giant Aldabra’s tortoise and the ostrich, both of which serve as a stand-in for some of Madagascar’s extinct species (the giant tortoises and Elephant Bird). I am told that the ostrich exhibit is by far the most popular with the throngs of Malagasy that visit the park on Sundays. By contrast, tourists come to awe at the aye-aye, the weird and elusive nocturnal lemur. In addition to geographical maps of Madagascar, the zoo has examples of field research and agricultural techniques on display. Tsimbazaza Zoo takes full advantage of their climate and location to invite migratory birds (mainly egrets) and allow outdoor strolls under bamboo stalks and baobab trees. The goal of the zoo is to reach the inner city people, show off the national fauna and stir a sense of pride and will to protect. Both the Johannesburg and Pretoria zoos in South Africa use this same technique to remind inner city populaces, which are disconnected from nature, about its beauty and fragility. In contrast, Croc Farm is a French owned zoo. In addition to a variety of reptiles, fossa, and free-range sifaka, the zoo hosts an impressive pool of 250 crocodiles, which are raised for meat, leather and other products. Visitors can try grilled crocodile in vanilla sauce at the zoo’s restaurant while looking over the immense pond. Unlike crocodile exhibits in zoos, the lake of 100s of crocodiles ensures that visitors are likely to see movement and interaction. In addition, standing so close to Madagascar’s only human predator is quite a thrill and an education. The farm warns that the 30,000 crocodiles left in Madagascar are continually under threat from habitat destruction and illegal hunting. The zoo informs visitors of superstitions surrounding crocodiles while at the same time searching for a balance between wild crocodile populations and villages. This zoo is aimed at tourists, but also invites Malagasy school groups. Lemurs Park is just outside of Tana, and is a very small park with eight species of lemur. The park has a botanical garden and visitors are given a guide to the tiny four hectares where the lemurs roam freely. The zoo has the same feel as Croc Farm- without the specialization in reptiles and the industry of crocodile farming. In contrast yet again, Parc D’Ivolina is run by the Madagascar Fauna Group, a consortium of zoos and international aid foundations. The zoo is situated 10 km outside of Tamatave and houses several lemur species, some of which are free ranging, as well as radiated tortoises and a few reptiles and amphibians. The zoo has mock rice patties and a walking loop through secondary forest. The aim of this zoo is to educate local people: a multi-pronged task of demonstrating how to efficiently grow rice without slash and burn techniques as well as running Saturday schools for local children to ensure that they learn French, mathematics and a little environmental education. Each of the zoos in Madagascar represents the major players on the island: the Malagasy, French ex-patriots and foreign aid groups. All of these groups are working from different angles: targeting different groups (city dwellers, tourists, villagers), providing different incentives to visit (recreation, buying leather goods, learning new skills) and sending different (but not mixed) messages about the environment (be aware and proud, harvest nature in a sustainable fashion, and change slash and burn farming tactics). Such varied approaches, along with the broad educational approach by Madagascar’s national parks, serve as continual reminders that the wilds of Madagascar are changing and people must be aware not only of what is on this magnificent island- but what they can do to stop the destruction of such precious fauna and flora.

croc feeding
croc feeding
spider tortoise
spider tortoise
croc egg incubator
croc egg incubator
Bush Pig
Bush Pig
view over tsimbazaza
view over tsimbazaza
brown mouse lemur enclosure in Lemurs park
brown mouse lemur enclosure in Lemurs park
baby crocs
baby crocs
aldabra tortoise
aldabra tortoise
natural history museum at Tsimbazaza in Tana, the skeleton of the big-legged elephant bird.
natural history museum at Tsimbazaza in Tana, the skeleton of the big-legged elephant bird.
Parc D
Parc D'Ivolina
pool of 250 adult crocodiles at Croc farm.  This look out is nicknamed Coco D
pool of 250 adult crocodiles at Croc farm. This look out is nicknamed Coco D'Isles- clever, huh?
the aviary at Parc Tsimbazaza.  The aviary was built with help from a German zoo in 2000
the aviary at Parc Tsimbazaza. The aviary was built with help from a German zoo in 2000
the terrarium at Croc Farm
the terrarium at Croc Farm
radiated tortoises in Parc D
radiated tortoises in Parc D'Ivolina
the Natural History Museum in Tsimbazaza.  Awing at an aye-aye
the Natural History Museum in Tsimbazaza. Awing at an aye-aye
Ruffed lemur at Parc D
Ruffed lemur at Parc D'Ivolina