By Matt Hitchiner, Tampolove Research Site Manager, Tampolove, Madagascar. Despite local tales of a monster dwelling within the depths of the Tampolove mangrove forest, this myth has evidently done little to dissuade people from entering and cutting down substantial areas of forest in order to satisfy their demand for building materials. It can be guaranteed that any wooden structure within the village is made, in part, by mangrove wood. Although abundantly used in the village, the unsustainable exploitation of this resource is apparent in the current need for villagers to travel to mangroves further afield in order to fulfil their requirements.
With there being no practical alternative other than to utilize the mangrove as a supply of wood, it won’t take long for irreversible damage to occur and with it the associated loss of breeding grounds for an array of land and sea creatures. Currently there are no mangrove reserves in Tampolove, however with the good will from the president of Tampolove the first re-plantation project in Velondriaka commenced this week with the help of volunteers from expedition 60.
Volunteers trekked to the deeper parts of the forest to collect the fallen seeds that congregate in small pools and amongst the tangle of prop roots. As we got engulfed by the mangroves and its sounds, a volunteer described it as a magical place. One can imagine how a tale of a monster came about as shadows dance in the low light and crabs as large as dinner plates scuttle into crevices.
A total of some 500 seeds were planted in three degraded areas on the outskirts of the forest. Provided that the local goats don’t take a fancy to mangrove seeds we should expect half of those planted to establish themselves within the next month.