The 5,500-acre Betampona Natural Reserve is one of the last patches of lowland rainforest in eastern Madagascar, with remarkably rich plant and animal diversity including many threatened species. To date 11 lemur species, 100 bird species, 5 endemic carnivore species and 69 reptile and 90 amphibian species have been recorded in Betampona. The reserve is also a botanical “hotspot” containing 20 of the 100 most endangered Malagasy plants. Betampona Reserve is located about 20 miles from Parc Ivoloina, and the two Madagascar Fauna Group project sites have been linked closely for a decade, particularly for environmental education and training programs.
BACK TO THE WILD!
Betampona Reserve is the site of the MFG/Duke Lemur Center program to return captive-bred lemurs to the wild. Since 1997, 13 black and white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata variegata) have been released into the reserve. Ten survived for longer than one year, and two (DLC-born Tany and Masoandro) are known to be still living in the reserve and have integrated with wild groups. Four offspring have been born to or sired by the released lemurs, and all were parent-raised and continue to thrive. All together, four of the captive-born ruffed lemurs have contributed to improving the genetic diversity of Betampona’s ruffed lemur population. The project’s conservation agents have monitored the released lemurs, their offspring and the wild groups continuously since 1997, providing a wealth of data about their adaptation and life in the wild.
The lemur re-stocking program has provided the foundation to transform Betampona into an important and valued site for conservation research on many different plant and animal species. In addition to their observations on the released ruffed lemurs, the conservation agents also conduct regular inventories on the reserve’s birds, reptiles and amphibians, other lemur species and other mammals. This program has also provided training opportunities for university students, field research assistants and local agents in methods to inventory and monitor biological diversity.