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conservation research programme in Madagascar (Con)

Location: Madagascar
Project type: conservation & wildlife
Price from: £1395.00 for 4 weeks - details below

Volunteer with an award winning charity in their conservation work, carrying out important, hands-on fieldwork with species including lemurs, bats and amphibians, as well as helping with community initiatives and environmental education.

Skills required

We work closely with the local people who manage this project, and they have identified the project's needs.

The project particularly welcomes applications from people who are studying or have studied anthropology, biological/environmental studies or science, African studies, international relations and other related courses. The project is also suitable for people interested in a future in not-for-profit organisations, NGOs, conservation, sustainable development or humanitarian causes. Although  volunteers are not required to have previous experience or knowledge in these areas, people with interest in these fields will make ideal candidates.

All volunteers will need to be:
  • Flexibile 
  • Team players
  • Reasonably physically fit
  • Able to "rough it" 

Main project details

As a grassroots development organisation the charity works directly with local communities ensuring that the work is requested by, as well as being useful to, the people of Madagascar. Although there is  a skilled and dedicated team made up of Malagasy and non-Malagasy staff in the south-east of the country, much of the work is dependent upon our volunteers.
Over the course of the Programme, as a volunteer you will have the opportunity to learn how a small NGO operates and the inherent challenges that it faces when working in a developing country. More specifically you will be working on  projects in the field and gaining understanding of the resource needs of impoverished village communities and how this impacts on conservation efforts.
The programme is led by some of the most competent conservation and development workers on the island. You will be an integral part of the team and gain an insight into real grassroots conservation and development.

The southern littoral forest in Sainte Luce is one of only three significant areas of this forest type remaining in Madagascar, having been reduced by over 90%.  As the forest has both high biodiversity and a heavily reliant local population, the charity works to combine scientific research with community conservation to build knowledge and capacity in that area.  The areas are at high risk from the local mining industry.  Together with the local village, the charoty works to communicate the consequences of mining and to formulate a strategy to mitigate the negative impacts.  

Currently, research work focuses on biodiversity, collecting data about species present, their distribution, density, behavious and habitats.  The data is used to better manage the forests, support the local community and protect the species concerned.  The research findings are incredibly important as the formulated conservation strategy will be key in helping to protect and conserve species before they are lost forever.

Project Ala aims to increase and improve viable habitat for three nocturnal species of lemur in Sainte Luce littoral forest, through corridor reforestation coupled with strengthened local and regional capacity to support the conservation of lemurs and their nocturnal habitats.  This new programme is important as the lemurs that live within Sainte Luce are endangered and endemic to south east Madagascar.

Another exciting project is Project Rufus, which involves conducting collaborative research and local conservation awareness raising to enhance the longterm survival of Pteropus rufus, the Madagascan flying fox, and contribute to an international body of knowledge regarding their life cycle and behaviour.

Volunteers have the opportunity to run regular environmental education and English classes for local children.
You will be living, working and travelling amongst some of the most beautiful and remote parts of Madagascar. The town of Fort Dauphin, where the programme is based, is set in a stunning location in the southeast of the country, with beautiful beaches and close proximity to some of Madagascar's famous nature reserves. 


Set in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar is the world's fourth largest island and and has a colourful and unique human culture as well as breathtaking natural scenery and flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth. Eighty per cent of the island's plant and animal species (including 71 species of lemur) are unique to the island.  Extreme poverty poses an enormous and ongoing threat to the island's staggering biodiversity, not least through deforestation caused by slash-and-burn agriculture. Many unique species have already been lost whilst many others, including some as yet un-described by science, face extinction. The conservation programme is based in the beautiful coastal region of Sainte Luce, surrounded by extremely rare and threatend fragments of littoral (coastal) forest.

The local team responsible for managing this project and caring for volunteers is a registered UK charity and registered as an NGO in Madagascar. 

It's amazing when you shine your headtorch into the depths of the forest and spot a pair of golden eyes belonging to a curious woolly lemur staring back at you.  You are always really close to the wildlife so you can really appreciate the biodiversity that Madagascar has to offer. 

I went to Madagascar on my own and came back with a new family and a new outlook. I learnt from each and every person I met, from fellow volunteers to  guides, our construction team, security team, market vendors and local families. Even the children who visited our camp daily bought a whole new level of positivity, enthusiasm and hope with them. Work on Pioneer was gruelling and the living conditions very basic, but the prospect of giving something back to this amazing nation pulled us through the exhaustion, unpredictable weather, various sicknesses and flooded toilets! The locals were fully supportive of our work, and accepted us into the community whole heartedly; their gratitude and excitement for the future made the hard times well worth the effort and the good times even better! It is funny how very simple life turns out to be when all creature comforts are removed, and how much deeper a connection is made with the people and land. 

I would thoroughly recommend Pioneer to anyone who is passionate about new experiences and is willing to give 100% of themselves to a totally new way of life. You will not be disappointed by what you get back for it; there isn't a more beautiful place, nor a more amazing nation out there, and in my opinion, no better way to explore it ." Alissa

Minimum duration

PLEASE NOTE - there are scheduled start dates each year - please ask us for this year's dates
 You can join from a minimum of 2 weeks up to a maximum of 10 weeks.  To participate in the full range of activities you will want to stay for the full 10 weeks!

Living Conditions

Camping facilities are provided throughout the programme, although volunteers do need to bring their own tent. Facilities are basic but there will always be latrine and private washing facilities. Electricity and piped water are available when in Fort Dauphin, however in the field water is collected and then treated from rivers and wells.

All meals are provided throughout the placement. Meals mainly consist of rice, beans, vegetables and fruit. Fish (or eggs for vegetarians) are provided when possible. All meals are prepared and cooked by the group, often in open-air facilities. The best possible treated drinking water is always available.

Project costs

From £1,395 for 10 weeks 
Read about our costs and pricing policy here

Watch an explanatory interview with programme director Sallie Grayson
Additional weeks  are costed at a sliding reducing rate.

Please note these costs are correct to the best of our knowledge but can only be confirmed at time of booking due to changes in transport and taxes outside our control.
  • airport pick up  and in-country travel costs whilst on the scheme 
  • full training in all aspects of project work 
  • all meals for the full eight weeks 
  • use of campsite facilities 
  • a dedicated team to guide you in Madagascar 
  • orientation and language classes upon arrival,  pre-placement briefings, together with support throughout your placement
Not included:
flights, insurance, visa costs, personal expenses such as phone calls, medical expenses, etc.
How your money is spent:
Due to the nature of  this project and  the continuous investment needed, whether or not there are volunteers in situ, it would be misleading to give individual costs. We have agreed with our local partners to show the percentage breakdown for annual costs for this project.
In Madagascar:
1% administration & communications
9% salaries
6% project expenses
11% accommodation and food
6% fuel and travel
56% to support ongoing charitable works
In the UK
6% charity administration
5% placement fee to people and places

Recommended reading

Check out slideshare | youtube | our blog | facebook for volunteer interviews & project news
  • H. Bradt (2006) MADAGASCAR - The Bradt Travel Guide. Bradt Travel Guides 
  • H. Bradt, D. Schuurman & N. Garbutt. (2005) BRADT WILDLIFE GUIDE: Madagascar Wildlife, A Visitor's Guide. Bradt Travel Guides Ltd
  • M. Brown (1995) THE HISTORY OF MADAGASCAR. Ipswich Book Company
  • H. Drysdale, (1991) DANCING WITH THE DEAD: A journey through Zanzibar and Madagascar. Harper Collins, Glasgow.
  • N. Garbutt (2007) MAMMALS OF MADAGASCAR. A&C Black 
  • F. Glaw and M. Viences (1994) A FIELD GUIDE TO THE REPTILES AND AMPHIBIANS OF MADAGASCAR. Moos Druck, Leverkusen and FARBO, Koln
  • S. Goodman & B. Patterson (1997) NATURAL CHANGE AND HUMAN IMPACT IN MADAGASCAR. Smithsonian Institution Press Washington and London
  • P. Greenway (2001) LONELY PLANET - MADAGASCAR. Lonely Planet Publications
  • R. Mittermeier et al. (2006) LEMURS OF MADAGASCAR. Conservation International
  • D. Murphy (1985) MUDDLING THROUGH IN MADAGASCAR. Murray Publications, London
  • P. Tyson (2000) THE EIGHTH CONTINENT - Life death, and discovery in the lost world of Madagascar. William Morrow An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers

Project gallery

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