VOICES Ideas and Insight From Explorers
Since time immemorial, local Malagasy have hunted and eaten terrestrial wildlife for food, including birds, tenrecs, bats, carnivores and lemurs. While this meat is rich in nutrients and has historically been plentiful, wildlife stocks have steadily declined in response to overhunting. Can chickens replace this dependency on wild meat?
The people I meet in Marofototra have adapted with ingenuity to nature’s changes: the turning of the seasons; changes in fish catch or rice harvest. But we live in a world of increasing human population, deforestation, fisheries exploitation, and, looming behind it all, climate change. These are changes caused by humans, and changes that threaten those with the most fragile dependence on nature’s delicate balance.
It is difficult to reconcile the need for food with the long-term need for wildlife conservation. It is clear that hunting at current rates drives certain wildlife species’ populations down to unsustainable sizes. Habitat destruction and fragmentation add to the problem. Not only is this harmful in terms of destabilizing food security, it also creates a cascade of harmful environmental impacts.
What started with a 3rd-grade animal report on the ring-tailed lemur has become a complete dedication to the people, plants, and animals of Madagascar. The ideas of a 9-year-old-me are now truly taking flight, as I train a new generation of Harvard students to help protect this unique land.