Marineland Park in Antibes actively participates, through the Marineland Foundation and the Pour une Planète Bleue (Blue Planet) Association, in the in-situ conservation of threatened species (whether marine or terrestrial).
We have talked a lot about polar bears recently (and for good reason, with the happy birth of Hope the bear cub!), but this is also the case of lemurs, which you can admire at Kid's Island, the children's park attached to Marineland.
Lemurs, which owe their recent popularity to a famous cartoon, are primates that are native to Madagascar (although some can also be found in Mayotte). Relatively different from monkeys, their postures and big eyes intrigue and amuse young and old alike!
Present for two years in a pen specially designed for them, the wildlife specialists at Kid's Island offer educational encounters, at fixed times, with maky, which are particularly recognizable by their black and white ringed tails. This also provides opportunities for trainers to raise visitors' awareness about living conditions in the wild that have become difficult for lemurs, which have been declared to be near threatened in their native country, due to deforestation and the trade in bushmeat. In the interest of protecting and preserving the species, we ask for donations at the entrance to their pen. That money then helps to finance ecological projects that will contribute to their survival in their natural environment. Having worked closely for some time now with the Berenty Reserve in the south of Madagascar, and having collected enough money to finance a potential project, we thought it would be helpful to spend a few days on-site, so we could understand the reserve's actual needs.
Two members of the Marineland Foundation (Mylène Muller, Managing Director of the Marineland Foundation, and Pauline Vernier, Animal Care Assistant at Kid's Island) travelled to Madagascar in late January, where they were received by Claire Foulon, Manager of the Berenty Reserve, a wasa (white woman) whose family has been living in the country for three generations. Passionate about and devoted to protecting her environment, she set herself the task of helping them to explore the 1,000 or so hectares (2,500 acres) of protected forests, 250 hectares (600 acres) of which form the Berenty Reserve.
Comprising several types of forests (primary, secondary and dry thorn), it gains from the proximity and the beneficial effects of the Mandrare River.
Many animals can be found there (like birds, turtles and bats), but the domain is chiefly dedicated to lemurs: small groups of ring-tailed maky, brown lemurs, sifakas, mouse lemurs and sportive lemurs live and reproduce there in complete freedom.
Like everywhere in that country, Claire Foulon has seen terrible damage occur inside her reserve. Other than the fact that shepherds let their herds of zebus and goats graze in the forests, and the presence of an invasive creeper that smothers plants and trees (cissus), she is fighting body and soul against deforestation and the (illegal!) capture of lemurs, in particular.
For many years, Malagasy forests have been pillaged and laid bare by the trade in rare and precious wood, and lemurs have been sold on the black market or eaten by impoverished local populations… As a result, the forests are disappearing at top speed, as are the lemurs' habitats and feeding grounds.
To fight those scourges, Claire Foulon has put a number of resources into play: hiring a large number of forest rangers; planting cacti at the edge of the forest, to prevent the flocks from entering; removing the invasive cissus creeper, by hand (!); and, finally, uprooting trees that are growing in devastated zones, in order to... replant them in preserved areas!!!
Every day, Claire Foulon completes Herculean tasks, and it's with that same determination that she wants to build one or more covered nurseries in the future, where seeds and young plants can bloom before she collects them and permanently replants them in the forest.
During their short stay, the delegates from the Marineland Foundation were persuaded by the enthusiasm and obstination of Claire Foulon who, in preserving her forest, is also protecting the animals that populate it. A decision was made quickly, to join forces with the project and fund the construction of a first nursery, possibly even a second down the road. Not accepting the inevitable destruction of nature by mankind and allowing animals to continue to live in their natural environments: these are also aspirations shared by the Marineland Foundation!
Devastated zone Replanted zone
At Kid's Island, we are very happy and proud to present our charming little lemurs to our guests and to advocate for them with each visit, by sounding the alarm about their fragile future in Madagascar.
Our ecological mission is everyone's business. Please don't hesitate, dear visitors, to come and admire the lemurs of Marineland with your family, and to participate in and actively help us with our projects, so that, together, we can keep the hope alive that nature is strong and will reassert itself, no matter what!