Sir David Attenborough has given his support to plans for a new field station in Madagascar, built to help save Critically Endangered lemurs. Conservationists from Bristol Zoological Society, Bath-based landscape architects Grant Associates, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and BuroHappold Engineering have worked together on the £110,000 scheme for the Ankarafa field station in Sahamalaza-Iles Radama National Park.
Sir David, presenter of Planet Earth and Blue Planet, said: “This is a visionary project that can help to conserve the lemurs and their forest habitat as well as helping the Madagascan people.”
Scientists and students working at the centre now use open-sided shelters with tin roofs. The new centre will include a laboratory, accommodation for researchers, a manager’s office, dining/living areas, a kitchen and a tourist camp nearby with a classroom and accommodation for eco-tourists.
Sir David said: “This field station has the potential to provide a centre for conservation shared by scientists from all over the world.”
Dr Christoph Schwitzer, director of conservation at Bristol Zoological Society, said: “It will also increase opportunities for local people whilst connecting and inspiring audiences in the UK and around the world.”
The design team has looked at the space available on the site as well as assessing the difficulties of transporting materials there, as it lies more than four hours’ drive along a poor road.
Peter Clegg, senior partner of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, said: “It’s a fantastic opportunity for us to be involved in a building which we hope will set new standards for how to build without encouraging deforestation.
“So much wood is cut down for firing bricks in Madagascar and we are trying to develop technologies which are forest-friendly.”
In the long term the aim is for this centre to become internationally renowned for developing solutions to conservation problems and become a destination for PhD and masters students.
The centre could also provide work for local people as guides, managers and field researchers.
Bristol Zoological Society is one of 30 European zoos involved in the Association Europeenne pour l’Etude et la Conservation des Lemuriens (AEECL) which aims to safeguard the future of Madagascar’s lemur population.
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