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All the latest news from Madagasikara Voakajy, the Malagasy biodiversity organisation dedicated to the conservation of endemic vertebrates and their habitats in Madagascar.

It's a misty morning when we leave Moramanga for ten days of fieldwork in Mangabe, where we are setting up and promoting a new protected area. Humidity clearly reaches its peak at dawn, and I can barely recognize the shapes of the bigger buildings. The streets are already full of people and animals running around. The team going to Mangabe is quite large, and every couple of minutes the car stops to pick somebody new up. Soon I lose track of how many people are in the car, and of who's who. There are MV staff, people from the topographical and forest agencies of the government, representatives of local communities, mayors, a cook and who knows who else.

Moramanga is a sprawling, chaotic town on the way to the east coast. A mine was recently opened nearby, and now Moramanga looks like an overgrown, overdeveloped tangle of muddy roads where wooden shacks casually mix with colonial buildings. The main street is packed with stands that sell coffee and fritters, tables full of dubious-looking vegetables and meat, and the omnipresent little convenience stores that sell little more than candy and basic toiletries. Enormous trucks constantly roar through the city, making their way through armies of rickshaws and taxi brousse.

Madagasikara Voakajy and the regional office of the Ministry of Environment and Forests in Toliary organized a workshop in March 2011 to develop a Species Conservation Strategy for the Belalanda Chameleon, Furcifer belalandaensis. This species was considered to be among the most threatened chameleon in the world. Found only around Belalanda village, west of Toliary, this chameleon is threatened by an increase in tree harvesting for charcoal. These trees are important habitats for the Belalanda chameleon. Currently, the status of the Belalanda Chameleon as a separate species is being re-questioned following genetic analysis. Nonetheless, the activities planned in this project will benefit three other endemic chameleon species, including the Vulnerable Furcifer antimena.

I just got back from my first field mission in a rural community in eastern Madagascar. The village of Antsiradava, literally meaning the long beach, is located in Ambatondrazaka district. A handful of mud houses with straw roofs are scattered around the red dirt road - all around it, agricultural fields, zebu pens, and a few fruit trees. Red dust covers every single building, villager, or farm animal, and there are quite a few of those. Shepherds lead small herds of zebus through the main road, and hordes of chicken, geese and ducks chase each other among the houses. Hungry-looking dogs and barefoot children complete the picture. When the sun is out it's pleasant enough to stay out in the streets, sipping some warm coke – no electricity for the fridge, here – but during the Malagasy winter a fine rain often falls on the dusty village.