We were very excited this week to receive this picture from Herilala Randriamahazo, our Tortoise Conservation Coordinator in Madagascar. This is our first glimpse at the school that the TSA is building in the village of Antsakoamasy! In March 2011, Rick Hudson traveled to Madagascar and met up with Christina Castellano (The Orianne Soceity) and Herilala to develop a strategy to protect remaining populations of the rapidly disappearing radiated tortoise. You can read a full report about their trip here.
During their visit, they met with the leaders of Antsakoamasy, a village that had previously been identified as having a strong protective attitude toward the tortoises that remain in the area. Prior to their visit, Herilala had been working for many months to forge a relationship with the community of Antsakoamasy and while Rick and Christina were visiting, a formal agreement was made with the village: in exchange for continued protection of radiated tortoises, the TSA agreed to build the community a school. The agreement was commemorated with a traditional zebu festival in March and there is no doubt that the school's grand opening in March 2012 will be celebrated with equal vigor!
The TSA is confident that providing conservation incentives like these will encourage other villages in Madagascar to protect and value their tortoises. Hopefully, this collaboration will serve as a model for future conservation initiatives in other areas of the country.