A snowy early winter evening on November 15 welcomed Canadian Club of Halton dinner guests to a fascinating and educational presentation on the island nation of Madagascar situated off the southeast coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

The guest speaker was Travis Steffens, the Founder and Executive Director of Planet Madagascar, a Canadian not-for-profit conservation education & community development organization that is working to protect Madagascar’s biodiversity while improving the lives of the people who live there.

With a BSc in Primatology and a Masters in Anthropology both from the University of Calgary, and a PhD in Evolutionary Anthropology from the University of Toronto, Travis, and his team, are interested in understanding how primates respond to habitat loss and fragmentation, and in applying research results that include the participation of the residents of local communities.

Madagascar is the 4th largest island in the world, roughly the size of Alberta, with a population of 26 million, 2/3 of whom live on less than $1 US per day. Millions of years ago the separation of Madagascar from the landmasses of Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica resulted in its now being home to an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth, especially lemurs which are primates and of which there are over 100 species, almost all classified as rare, vulnerable, or endangered.

With his presentation titled “Lemurs, Forests and People: Building Sustainable Forest Communities in Madagascar”, Travis informed the audience about Planet Madagascar’s efforts to educate and train the local residents about the importance of responsible fire management and prevention, forest restoration, conservation of lemurs, conservation education programs for children and adults, and a women’s cooperative focused on sustainable agroforestry and forest restoration and eventually projects that will include sanitation, women’s health and education.

More information about Planet Madagascar can be found at www.planetmadagascar.org.

View photos from event.

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