Lee Nesler snapped these amazing pictures on a recent trip to the Tampolo Protected Area in Madagascar. Lee joined the Lemur Conservation Foundation staff as Executive Director and CEO in September 2011. Ms. Nesler came to LCF after an extensive search to fill this critical executive position. After earning a degree in Animal Science, with a specialization in animal behavior from the University of Illinois Champagne Urbana. Her career includes participation in field studies around the world from Siberia, Costa Rica, India, Mexico, and Africa among other wild and exotic destinations.
Here are some of her pictures from Madagascar, and her Director’s Statement for the LCF Annual Report, following her visit Madagascar’s Tampolo Protected Area as an LCF an MFG leader:
‘One only needs to fly over Madagascar to understand that urgency is required to ensure the survival of its ecodiversity and unique habitats. You can observe the catastrophe of deforestation happening before your eyes. Small fragmented forests are surrounded by agricultural devastation; it is no wonder that lemurs are one of the most endangered primates of the world. Without adjacent forests allowing offspring and family groups to survive their numbers will remain small and their genetic makeup limited. A stable sociopolitical environment is needed so long-term programs that forests, animals, and communities need to thrive can be implemented.’
‘With talk of an election in 2012 you can feel hope in the air for the Malagasy. Regardless of the electoral outcome the future is uncertain for the animals and they face a long road to species recovery. Their forests are now home to armies of loggers, invaders who come with the sole intention of removing the largest, most mature trees. Most working loggers are ordinary Malagasy who need to put food on their table, but the logging cartels organizing the destruction enjoy exorbitant profits at the expense of these laborers, the communities, and the lemurs. Tampolo, our sister forest, though smaller in size compared to other reserves, is feeling the pressure. Even as a permanently protected forest it is not immune to the greed and corruption that the illegal logging industry creates.’
‘With no ebony or rosewood within Tampolo’s boundaries it was thought that illegal logging and its consequences would not come to this fragile littoral forest. My recent trip proved that our sister forest is in danger. It is time to employ strategies that have worked in other logged areas; strategies which will help to provide villagers what they need, whether it is food for their families or money to buy life’s daily necessities. LCF has assembled a team of people to conduct a rapid needs assessment. The assessment will produce accurate information about the forests and villages. Village families depend on the forest to give them the materials that they need to survive. When the forest was plentiful the balance between taking what was needed and replenishment was intact. Now that dynamic is broken, along with the ability for the forest to recover without intervention.’
‘Our goal is to provide the support needed for this ecosystem to recover through programs that establish an exterior balance, until nature is able to achieve that balance again. LCF does not intend to ‘change’ Malagasy society. We are in Tampolo at the request of the Malagasy people. Support for, and partnerships with, the villagers is based on the trust we have built throughout, especially during the last 3 years of political unrest. We are ready to move ahead, to maximize our opportunities, and move confidently toward the goal of environmental recovery.’
‘Lemurs and Madagascar have been prominent in media of all kinds this year. This has helped focus important awareness on the fragile island of Madagascar, and our planet with all of its amazing ecosystems. The lemur, as well as all of Madagascar’s flora & fauna, depend on our intervention for their very survival now that the balance between man and nature has become distorted.’