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The population of Greater Bamboo Lemurs protected by Helpsimus has almost tripled in 10 years!

The Bamboo Lemur programme was initiated in 2008 following the discovery of two groups of greater bamboo lemurs (Groups 1 and 2), each comprising around twenty individuals at the time.

Greater Bamboo Lemur © S. Meys

Between 2008 and 2014, the growth in the population resulted not only from the implementation of the first protection measures, but also from the discovery of five new groups.

From 2014 onwards, the year in which the exploration ceased, the increase in the population is exclusively attributable to the protection measures in place.

It has remained constant since then, except for 2022, when around fifty individuals were not found following the passage of two high-intensity cyclones.

Since 2018, the number of births has generally been around 70 per year, with occasional peaks of over 80. These figures are exceptional, especially when you consider that this species was on the brink of extinction some fifteen years ago.

© D. Roullet – Helpsimus

Groups 1 and 2 stand out for their exceptional growth, even though they live in the part of our conservation area most impacted by human activity. This area, although heavily anthropised, has an abundance of bamboo, which is the main source of food for the greater bamboo lemurs. Group 2 also proved to be the most prolific within the population. It has occasionally exceeded 80 individuals, with record numbers of births (up to 15 babies recorded in 2018).

These 2 groups also underwent several fissions, leading to the formation of Groups 3, 1′ and 1” for Group 1, and Groups 2′, 2” and 4 for Group 2. Subsequently, Groups 1” and 4 also split, giving rise to Groups 1”’ and 4′.

The fissions within the groups had various origins. Some fissions were directly linked to human activities, in particular major clearings in the lemurs’ territory, as well as the hunting of tenrecs by villagers with the help of dogs. Others were of natural origin, occurring when the groups reached a size generally exceeding 60 to 80 individuals. Finally, some fissions were the consequence of intense climatic factors, notably the two cyclones that occurred in 2022. These cyclones caused considerable damage, destroying up to 40% of the bamboo forests. This destruction resulted in a significant reduction in the food resources of the greater bamboo lemurs, leading to the dispersal of the animals.

Clearing © S. Meys

The population of greater bamboo lemurs directly protected by Helpsimus has now exceeded 650 individuals, divided into 21 groups. These groups vary in size from just under 30 to almost 80 individuals.

The 21 groups are monitored by a team of 30 local guides, whose job it is to:

– monitor the groups: locate the animals and delimit their territory using GPS, carry out regular counts to update the inventories, report threats such as the presence of dogs or traps, and report attacks by the greater bamboo lemurs on crops.

– repel the greater bamboo lemurs from cultivated areas.

– help the scientific teams.

– take part in the inventories and the environmental education programme.

Helpsimus guide © S.Meys
Helpsimus guide © S. Meys

In addition to the 21 regularly monitored groups, three new groups formed after the cyclones of 2022, named 8′, 8” and 10, are not regularly monitored. Together, these groups total around thirty individuals.

The Bamboo Lemur programme site is now home to the largest wild population of greater bamboo lemurs. This success is attributable to our holistic approach to conservation, which aims to fight poverty among local populations, enabling them to protect their biodiversity in a sustainable way.

The greater bamboo lemur is currently the only lemur species whose populations are increasing. From less than 100 specimens in 2008, it is likely that the population now exceeds 1,500 individuals in Madagascar. However, despite this growth, the balance remains fragile, as demonstrated in 2022 with the cyclones. The greater bamboo lemur population has nevertheless shown remarkable resilience in the face of these events, thanks in part to the measures put in place to limit the pressure on its habitat.

Annual report 2022

Read the Helpsimus annual report for 2021!

Creation of the Simus School and development of our environmental education program

Our environmental education programme took a new turn in 2022 with the creation of the Simus School, our home for environmental education.

The school, which was built in Sahofika, also includes a kitchen and a refectory to accommodate children from all our partner villages and to organise activities over several days.

The Simus School © D. Roullet

In front of the Simus School, the refectory and the kitchen © D. Roullet

The recruitment of a new educator, Laurent, as well as the decision to have our environmental education programme supervised by our partner Impact Madagascar, also allows us to organise more activities for the children.

Laurent © D. Roullet

Last year, we conducted 65 educational workshops, involving 1,866 children.

We have introduced new activities, in particular a workshop entitled « I take care of the forest ». This workshop aims to make children aware of the importance of forests by teaching them to look after the trees they have planted near their school.

The workshop « I take care of the forest » © Impact Madagascar

In addition, during the summer holidays, we organised our first two green classes in the Ranomafana National Park, which brought together around thirty children. They were amazed by this place that they had never had the opportunity to visit.  They were able to observe red-bellied lemurs, Edwards’ sifakas, red-fronted lemurs, but also many endemic plant species. They discovered the different roles of the forest and the interdependence of living beings in this ecosystem.

In 2022, we also organised seven visits to the Sahofika forest fragment, including two during the Christmas holidays when the Simus School was launched. These visits allowed 43 children to observe the greater bamboo lemurs (Group 5) and the red-bellied lemur family (monitored since 2017). The children quickly identified the latter as the heroes of their illustrated booklet entitled « Noro’s haven ».

Visit to the Sahofika forest fragment © Impact Madagascar
Visit to the Sahofika forest fragment © Impact Madagascar
Visit to the Sahofika forest fragment © Impact Madagascar
Lunch at the refectory of the Simus School © Impact Madagascar
Activities at the Simus School After the visit to the forest © Impact Madagascar
Activities at the Simus School After the visit to the forest © Impact Madagascar
Activities at the Simus School After the visit to the forest © Impact Madagascar
Activities at the Simus School After the visit to the forest © Impact Madagascar

In September and October, Laurent and Mary focused on preparing the Simus Festival, a major event that had not taken place since the beginning of the pandemic. About 150 children participated in this event, performing songs and dances. Laurent even composed a song especially for the occasion, which was covered by several schools.

Simus festival © D. Roullet

Thus, the year 2022 was particularly rich for our environmental education programme, whose main objective is to enable children to learn more about their biodiversity and to learn how to preserve it.

Guarding of rice fields (progress report July 2022)

In 2022, we extended the guarding of rice fields to our entire intervention area to protect the only crops that resisted the two February cyclones.

As a reminder, rice represents less than 0.5% of the greater bamboo lemur diet, however, groups of 60 to 80 individuals can destroy up to 80% of a rice plot that normally sustains a farming family for several months.

© D. Roullet

The video below explains how the crop guarding works.

The team of guards is now composed of 60 people, their number has been multiplied by 5 in almost 3 years.

The number of beneficiaries has been multiplied by more than 3 in almost 3 years. There are now 131 farmers who benefit from this programme.

In 2022, 672 rice fields have been protected from the greater bamboo lemurs.

From April to June, 412 attacks have been repealed in 188 paddy fields.

Apart from a few isolated incidents in only 12 rice fields, no damage was observed in the other 660 rice fields.

The crop guarding not only protects the rice fields but also creates jobs in a period of great insecurity.

Annual report 2021

Read the Helpsimus annual report for 2021!

Mother-daughter workshop on the menstrual cycle and hygiene

In Madagascar, almost 40% of the population is under 15 years old, and almost 60% under 25 years old. The fertility index (average number of children per woman) is equal to 5 children per woman. Thus, Madagascar has one of the highest population growth rates in the world.

Induced abortion (or voluntary termination of pregnancy) is the first cause of maternal mortality.

In Vohitrarivo, many young girls do not finish their primary education because of an unwanted pregnancy.

Most of them have never received sex education or even information about menstruation before the arrival of their first period, which was often experienced as a traumatic event.

Old rags or leaves can be used as sanitary napkins.

The contraceptive injection, which causes significant side effects, is the method of contraception used by women (and sometimes young girls) in the rural commune of Tsaratanana.

Our first mother-daughter workshop on the menstrual cycle and hygiene was organized in January 2022 in Vohitrarivo with the help of Impact Madagascar as part of a partnership with the Rotary Club Paris Est.

35 mothers and their daughters aged 11 to 60 took part in this workshop during which various themes were discussed:

Individual or small group interviews were previously conducted in the village with the women to determine their knowledge on the subject.

Questions were asked after the workshop to the participants to assess their knowledge.

The workshop format has been acclaimed by the participants who appreciated being able to talk to each other, the older ones sharing their experience with the younger ones who felt more confident to ask questions on an intimate subject that is not always easy to approach.

The workshop © Impact Madagascar

All participants agree that it is essential that every adolescent girl receive sex education.

All of them acquired new knowledge, in particular about the menstrual cycle, the use of adapted sanitary napkins, pregnancy, etc.

At the end of the workshop, they received soap and cotton sanitary napkins made by the embroiderers of the artisanal embroidery project.

The aim of this workshop is to improve the lives and health of women, but also to prevent teenage pregnancies. These are in fact the cause of sometimes serious health problems (which can lead to death) and the school failure of many adolescent girls.

Thus one of the slogans of the workshop is: « women who thrive, are responsible for their health, take care of their future and their children »

Slogan of the workshop © Impact Madagascar

This workshop, to which our educator is trained, will be organized for all our partner villages.

A father-son workshop should also be created soon.

Source : Impact Madagascar

SAMIVAR VOI evaluation

The first three years of managing the Miradia VOI were assessed in 2021 and its management plan has been updated (without major changes):

– the number of members is increasing, to 186 today (vs. 138, 3 years ago).

– 78 patrols were organized by the 19 patrollers of the VOI responsible for checking the clearing.

The patrollers of the 3 VOI © S. Meys

– the amount of “tavy” (consisting of clearing and then burning an area of vegetation to cultivate it) has decreased significantly since the VOI was set up.

However, we deplore the destruction of 4 ha of forest that have been burned over the past year: 3 ha in one of the conservation areas and 1 ha in one of the restoration areas (near the forest fragment where we develop the ecotourism project).

Tavy dans une zone de conservation Helpsimus

Tavy in a conservation area © S. Meys

– the bamboo forests are becoming denser in the restoration areas.

– the lemur populations are growing.

Lémur à ventre roux helpsimus

Red-bellied lemur © S. Meys

– some forest fragments are starting to connect.

– threats to the lemurs have diminished.

– living conditions in our partner villages have improved.

The contract with the VOI has therefore been renewed for 3 more years in a ceremony that took place on December 10, 2021.

Renewal ceremony of the contract with the VOI Samivar © S. Meys

Representatives of the local authorities © S. Meys

Show prepared by the children of the Sahfika school with Mary, our eduactor © S. Meys

Signature by the President of the VOI © S. Meys

Signature by the President of Helpsimus and the founder of Impact Madagascar

Impact of cyclone Batsirai on the Bamboo Lemur program

On the night of February 5 to 6, 2022, Cyclone Batsirai hit severely the southeast of Madagascar, crossing the Vatovavy region where Helpsimus is located.

© &

This high-intensity tropical cyclone caused extensive damage, forcing nearly 2,700 people to flee their homes in the rural commune of Tsaratanana.

The wooden houses whose roof is made of Ravenala leaves did not resist winds of more than 170 km / h with peaks at 235 km / h.

© Impact Madagascar

The heavy rains generated by the cyclone caused severe flooding in some villages. The water thus rose up to 3 m in Sahofika.

Village of Sahofika © Helpsimus

Many roads were damaged or blocked by falling trees further isolating many villages.

School infrastructure such as schools in Sahofika and Ambodigoavy were sometimes heavily affected.

School of Sahofika © Helpsimus

The most dramatic aspect concerns the crops since many of them have been destroyed.

It is a real disaster for the inhabitants of the commune of Tsaratanana who, for the most part, practice subsistence agriculture.

Finally, the groups of lemurs, in particular the greater bamboo lemurs, have dispersed, requiring closer monitoring.

We are currently implementing an action plan to deal with the consequences of this cyclone and limit the pressures on the habitat of lemurs which will inevitably increase in the weeks/months to come.

It consists of :

© Impact Madagascar

Guarding © S. Meys

© Helpsimus

© S. Meys

© S. Meys

In the commune of Tsaratanana, 27 primary schools and 2 colleges were completely destroyed by the cyclone.

Overall, the 14 permanent classrooms built by Helpsimus withstood the cyclone well.

The damage to our infrastructure is listed below.

In Sahofika:

© Helpsimus

© Helpsimus

© Helpsimus

© Helpsimus

In Vohitrarivo :

© Helpsimus

In Ambohipo :

© D. Roullet

© Helpsimus

© Helpsimus

In Ambodigoavy :

© Helpsimus

Significant damage was also observed in the schools of Sahofika and Ambodigoavy on buildings that were not built by Helpsimus:

© Helpsimus

On February 22, a second cyclone crossed the Vatovavy region: fortunately, the cyclone Emnati did not significantly increase the toll of the cyclone Batsirai.

Cyclone Emnati © &

We will not be able to protect the lemurs and their habitat without strengthening support for local populations and guaranteeing them a minimum of food security.

We have been able to start several of the activities described in the action plan thanks to the support already obtained from several donors whom we thank warmly.

Ecotourism and handicrafts to protect the greater bamboo lemur

The population of Greater Bamboo lemurs that we protect lives in a very degraded and highly anthropized environment made up of agricultural land, bamboo forests and small portions of residual forests.

When the VOIs (village associations) were created, ecotourism was identified as a means of promoting biodiversity and developing the local economy.

Thus, since 2018, we have been developing an ecotourism project in one of the forest fragments of Sahofika on the territory of the Group 5 of Greater Bamboo lemurs.

This forest fragment depends on the VOI SAMIVAR and borders the access road to the village of Sahofika. It is located about ten km from the town of Ifanadiana.

Vilage de Sahofika, helpsimus
Sahofika © S. Meys

The Group 5 is composed of more than sixty Greater Bamboo lemurs and shares its territory with a family of Red-bellied lemurs whose habituation has begun in 2018.

Bébé grand hapalémur, Helpsimus
Greater bamboo lemur © S. Meys
Lemure à ventre roux, Helpsimus

Red-bellied Lemur © S. Meys

A floristic inventory showed that the forest fragment is home to several precious wood species such as Dalbergia baroni (rosewood) as well as endemic species from Madagascar (Ravenala madagascariensis).

Forest of Sahofika © D.Roullet

The fauna inventories that are still in progress have confirmed the presence of many animal species: Mouse lemurs (Microcebus spp.), Dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleus spp.), Ring-tailed mongoose (Galidia elegans), forest rats (several species), Blue coua (Coua caerulea), Reynaud’s coua (Coua reynaudii), Madagascar long-eared owl (Asio Madagascariensis) etc.

In October 2019, we hired two women and one man among the members of the VOI SAMIVAR to become tourist guides. Their training, initially designed to last three years, has been extended until 2022 due to the successive lockdowns related to the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, out of the 3 traineeships initially planned, the tourist guides have only been able to complete one in Ranomafana National Park for the moment.

However, since their recruitment, the tourist guides have been participating in animal monitoring alongside Helpsimus agents which has enabled them to acquire a good knowledge of the flora and fauna present in the Sahofika forest fragment.

Guide touristique Helpsimus

Francine, Charles and Lova, the tourist guides © S. Meys

In addition, since 2020 they have overseen the habituation of a female owl spotted in 2017 in Sahofika.

Grand hiboux de Madagascar, Helpsimus

Young owl © S. Meys

Some paths have been set up in the forest to facilitate the visit. We also built a reception office at the forest entrance with a parking lot by the road side, allowing the visitors to park as close as possible to the reception office.

Bureau touristique Helpsimus

The entrance to the Sahofika forest © S. Meys

Same-day visits can be organized from Ranomafana.

While this ecotourism project aims to create additional income for local communities, its main objective is to bring value to the natural resources in an area where human activities are very intense.

The presence of ecotourists who will make a long journey to reach Sahofika and visit this forest to observe the local wildlife will help raising awareness among communities regarding the richness of their biodiversity.

The ecotourists, whose number will be limited (access to the site remains rather difficult), will live a unique experience by observing one of the world’s most endangered lemurs in exceptional conditions.

With this project, we wish not only to involve local communities in the long term preservation of their biodiversity but also inspire ecotourists among whom we hope to arouse a desire in getting involved.

In parallel to the visit to the Sahofika forest, we are developing 3 completely new craft projects in our partner villages:

Job’s tears jewels

A French jewellery designer has created a bracelet and earrings with seeds from a plant called « Job’s tears » which grows wild in our area of ​​intervention.

She came to our study area in Madagascar where she trained a dozen women in manufacturing these jewels which will be sold in Europe under the label she has created and help generating sustainable income for women.

Projet Bijoux, Helpsimus
© S. Meys

Some women also make the small raffia boxes in which the jewels are presented.

Sculptures in dead wood

This project was born from an encounter in Sahofika with a young man from the village who carved wooden animals. He requested our support to help him acquire suitable tools and improve his sculpting technique.

In the end, 3 persons benefited from the training with a Malagasy professional sculptor whose particularity is to create sculptures only from pieces of dead wood picked up on the ground.

Sculpteur bois Helpsimus
Jo, one of the sculptors © S. Meys
Sculpture bois helpsimus
© S. Meys

– The embroidery project

This project was initiated in collaboration with an embroiderer from Ranomafana.

© S. Meys

wo women from the village of Ambodigoavy who wanted to start a similar activity were invited to participate in this project.

Their training has been suspended by the pandemic but has not, however, been completely interrupted.

The original project which aimed to make embroidered bags has indeed been temporarily reoriented towards the manufacture of cloths masks as part of the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

The women were thus able to familiarize themselves with the use of their sewing machine. In addition, they are currently trained in the manufacture of cloth sanitary napkins. These additional activities should allow them not to be completely dependent on ecotourism eventually.

Except jewellery, handicrafts will be sold in a shop we have built at the entrance to Ranomafana national park.

This local will make it easier for artisans to sell their products by offering them directly to tourists visiting the national park. We also plan to sell other items, in particular raffia objects made by a few women from our partner villages.

Helpsimus shop at Ranomafana© S. Meys

The implementation of these various projects has unfortunately been greatly slowed down by the health crisis. However, this imposed delay has benefited their maturation.

The Sahofika forest fragment should be open to the visitors in 2022, as will the shop located at the entrance of the national park.

This project is co-funded by IUCN Save Our Species. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of Helpsimus and do not necessarily reflect the views of IUCN.

Opening of 3 new school canteens

In November, we opened 3 new school canteens in Ambohipo, Ambodimanga and Vohitrarivo schools.

Every canteen has an equipped kitchen (with improved furnaces, cooking pots, cooking utensils, plates, cutlery, cups, etc.) and an attic for storing foodstuffs.

Ecole d’Ambohipo, Helpsimus

The kitchen at the right of the 2 school buildings – Ambohipo school © D. Roullet

Ecole d’Ambohipo, Helpsimus

The kitchen at Ambohipo © D. Roullet

Ecole d’Ambohipo, Helpsimus

The storage attic at Ambohipo © D. Roullet

A big thank you to Bel Foundation which funded the creation of these 3 new school canteens.

Every school of the program now has a school canteen. The 5 school canteens directly benefit 662 children and their 22 teachers.

Ecole de Sahofika

Sahofika school © S.Meys

The canteens are handled by a manager whom we recruited when the 3 new canteens opened. This manager is member of the NGO Impact Madagascar, our local partner on various development aid projects: management of school gardens, stock management, preparation of menus, training of cooks, etc.

Ecole d’Ambohipo, Helpsimus

Preparation of the meals under Mialy’s control who handdle the school canteens © D. Roullet

Note that the 5 school gardens, which were set up in every school, produced just over 10% of the accompaniments (mainly vegetables) from the opening of the canteens until the Christmas holidays.

The children’s meal is made up of rice supplemented each day with a different food such as green beans, carrots, beans, zucchini, potatoes, Cape peas, pasta, petsai (Chinese cabbage), lentils, fish, yams,bravimboatavo (eatable leaves), etc.

The children have access to a more varied diet in the canteen than at home, where they consume virtually no vegetables. In addition, many of them eat little in the morning for breakfast (mainly cassava), especially during the lean season.

However, we will be working in the coming weeks to improve the canteen menu, which is is not yet sufficiently balanced.

The school canteens will contribute to the long-term protection of the greater bamboo lemurs:

– by keeping children in school: they will acquire a better basic education and once adults, they will be able to better manage their natural resources.

– by generating new sources of income for local populations: job creation (gardeners for school gardens, cooks for preparing meals, etc.) and purchasing foodstuffs from local producers who benefit from our agricultural program (in progress).