Meet Amelaid and his passion : biodiversity

Having spent five years studying Biology, Ecology and Animal Conservation in Madagascar, Amélaïd returned to the Comoros to explore the biodiversity of the Islands of the Moon. He did volunteer work for a few organisations before he bumped into an ecologist who encouraged him to send his CV to the ECDD project, where he was recrutied.

So in 2009 Ameliad joined the ECDD team as a Biodiversity Monitoring and Research Technician. His objective was to set up the first long-term  monitoring of the Comoros’ fauna and habitat , especially endemic species. He also worked to produce the first high-resolution habitat (land cover) maps for the three islands, and istribution maps showing the spatiotemporal dynamic of bird species native to Anjouan. The results of his research have provided information on the current status of these species and also on the way they are distributed.

The results of his work with ECDD provide a foundation for subsequent monitoring of the populations and distribution of endemic fauna; the distribution maps of the islands’ native biodiversity serve as essential tools for students, researchers and tourists. The work is a long-term endeavour, where everything is constantly evolving, but he is certain that his mission will have a lasting impact. In carrying out his analysis, he ensures that the islands’ biodiversity gets its recognition. And it’s this recognition that ensures that it will be safeguarded.

Today, Amélaïd works with Dahari part-time while also teaching fish biology at Anjouan’s Fisheries school. When asked what he has learnt from the ECDD project, he says: ‘practice’. Ninety-five per cent of what he learnt at school was theory, and so seeing the reality in the field has strengthened his skills. But he is also grateful for what he’s learnt during training sessions, in particular the knowledge he’s gained from expats who have worked with the project.

Among the challenges of working in the field, Amélaïd lists the physical fitness required to scale the steep mountains, the efforts he’s made to integrate himself into the village communities, and managing the linguistic differences between the archipelago’s regions and islands.

This human connection is also what he defines as his ‘greatest success’: managing to become part of diverse communities and enjoying the connections he’s made. But he is also proud of his expert knowledge of Comoros biodiversity, in particular relating to birds.

He also feels that he has overcome his greatest challenge: when he arrived, he made his observations but there was no one in the local team qualified to analyse the biological data. As a result, he found a distance-learning course that would train him to carry out this task himself, and he was thus able to develop his skills through two years of complementary study for a Research Master’s in Wildlife Management.

Amélaïd becomes animated when discussing his work and tells us more. For example, he mentions a memorable moment that has stuck in his mind: the day that his fear of the forest at night disappeared. A few years ago, during a night-time expedition in the forest near to Ouzini with some students and a German researcher, the researcher fell ill. Naturally it was Amélaïd who turned back to find the nearest village, 4 kilometres away. He was very uneasy, to say the least… but after making a list in his head of all the fearsome animals (mygale spiders, venomous snakes, even tigers) that don’t live in the forest, he came to understand that his fear of the dark was unfounded. Nowadays he is much more relaxed and no longer fears what he cannot see.

So what’s in store for the future? Amélaïd’s dream is to be a great researcher and a prominent representative of Comoros biodiversity. He would like his work to be used by others as a reference tool, and hopes to find opportunities to share his knowledge internationally. But today, with Dahari, he hopes soon to be in charge of a project that will place him at the heart of the management of protected species. Indeed, the ECDD project has worked to understand the situations of different species and the threats that they face. Dahari, taking the reins in that area, must now focus on more concrete preservation work: for instance, Amélaïd hopes to devise a system to protect the roosts of the Livingstone’s fruit bat, an endangered species. And he certainly intends to succeed.

By chance ! Dahari just receiverCoup du hasard : Dahari vient de recevoir, fin décembre, une bourse de 8.000 euros de la part de la fondation Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, pour lancer ce projet pilote de protection des dortoirs de Livingstone. La suite? C’est Amelaid qui vous le racontera … http://www.speciesconservation.org/

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