There is a place in the fokontany of Menalamba near the Torotorofotsy wetland where golden mantellas used to thrive. Then destruction came. People who moved to Torotorofotsy in search of agricultural land, began to cut down trees in the surrounding forest and burn them to clear the area for cultivation. There was also illegal logging and gold mining. Rice fields expanded deeper and deeper into the wetland core areas. Streams were dug to build drainage. As a consequence, the water became dirty, which was fateful for the tadpoles. They died because their habitat was destroyed and the golden mantellas disappeared totally over ten years ago.
But there is new hope that the golden frogs could return. For many years, Association Mitsinjo has worked to raise awareness among the surrounding communities about the importance of preserving the wetland. Training and workshops in alternative agriculture have been provided. Since 2015, Mitsinjo and the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation (FANC) have been implementing a project to strengthen the protection of the Ramsar site. Besides environmental education, awareness-raising events and training in methods of sustainable farming, the project includes creation of alternative income generation activities. These activities consist of promoting women’s handicrafts and their marketing.
In April 2018, a team of FANC coordinators and other Mitsinjo visitors had an opportunity to see the Menalamba site which is in the buffer zone between the wetland and reforestation areas. Natural fern is already growing there and grass species (Cyperaceae) that have been planted for women’s handicraft are also doing well. Our guide Youssouf said that the situation has definitely improved. The forest that was once burnt is recovering and gaining space. In future, golden mantellas from Korkeasaari zoo (Helsinki, Finland) could find their new home here in their natural habitat.
Text: Ulla-Maija Aitakangas, volunteer
Photos: Olli Turunen, project coordinator/FANC