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C3 Internship Review – Sarah Duddigan – Comoros and Madagascar 2010

July 1, 2011

Back at university Madagascar was always a common example for environmental issues. Media paint this bleak picture of mass deforestation with half the island’s soil spilling into the ocean, silting up corals, mangroves destruction and poaching.

Learning and reading about Madagascar and and the issues it faces made it a real goal in life to get out there and see it for myself. That’s when I discovered C3, an NGO that was working hard in marine conservation in Madagascar through projects concentrated within the local community. This strong emphasis on community based work sounded fantastic and something I believed in strongly and really wanted to get involved with. When offered the opportunity to work in Comoros as well to work monitoring the nesting sea turtle population alongside community integration, I jumped at the chance.

Moheli, Comoros, is an absolutely beautiful island and home to some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Days were spent with friends in the village we were often invited round for tea and had our hair braided, eat Comorian treats and learn Comorian dances. We would often talk about our work and they would help us with naming the turtles on the beach, a new scheme that year. It got to the point where everyone knew who we were and knew our names, even people I’d never met! In a community this small that receives very few tourists we were a bit of a novelty.

The nights were spent on the beach monitoring the nesting sea turtles and collecting data on them. Nothing quite prepares you for how amazing these animals are.

After two months on Moheli it was time to leave for Madagascar. Moving into a town in Madagascar from a small village in the Comoroswas a bit of a culture shock, but also a welcome one. We were still given the opportunity to integrate with the community through awareness raising days in the town centre. We also toured to coastal villages in the North to carry out questionnaires with fishermen on sea turtles, important information would be gathered and used in future research.

I wrote reports on the data collected in Moheli, helped to write the questionnaires, made a ‘pin the tail on the dugong’ game and filed data sheets. Seeing Madagascar for myself, and working with C3 made me realise that the outlook for Madagascar may not be as bleak as first made out. There are people working hard to actively protect Madagascar environment both on the coast and in the forests. It wasn’t all glamour and there were times when all you wanted was for your feet to be clean and a big chocolate cake but it was an amazing experience and one that will stay with me for a very long time.

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