Conservation Optimism Part 5 - Mad Dog Initiative, Madagascar

Every day this week I will be sharing a story of #conservationoptimism from around the world– exciting projects led by passionate people dedicated to saving Earth’s precious wildlife. Today we return to Madagascar, this time to the wild rainforests of the East. 

The Mad Dog Initiative is a group of vets and scientists whose mission is the promotion of wildlife conservation, animal welfare and human health through the care and management of domestic dogs. Last year I spent some time with them in the Andasibe region, home to the legendary Indri- the largest of the lemur species, and Critically Endangered.

The 2022 campaign saw 277 community dogs vaccinated against Rabies and 211 neutered. This vital work not only contributes to canine welfare, but helps protect humans and wild mammals. The dogs living at the edges of protected areas pose a physical and microbiological threat to the wildlife within, so by controlling their populations and protecting them against transmissable disease, the wildlife are protected too.

Between 1973-2014 Madagascar lost 37% of its forest cover. The pandemic put even more pressure on the wildlife- a massive drop in tourism and internationally funded research increased the reliance on natural resources and impeded progress of conservation efforts. During the height of the pandemic MDI provided much needed food supplies to many families in the Andasibe community, and continues to work with schools to educate and promote alternative solutions to hunting and other unsustainable practices in the surrounding rainforests.

MDI continues their great work throughout the year, contributing to academic research projects, providing priceless training opportunities for Malagasy vet students, and engaging local communities about the importance of wildlife conservation and sustainability. Protecting wildlife has to be done in a way that respects the right of people to develop their communities; no one has the right to say that one is more important than the other. By working together, initiatives can safeguard these sacred wild spaces and maybe even allow lemur populations to recover in time.