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2022 Continuation Funding
2016 Whitley Award
Juliette Velosoa Madagascar Wetland and Freshwater
Saving the Critically Endangered side-necked turtle

Winner of the The Whitley Award donated by the Garden House School Parents’ Association


Ancient and Critically Endangered, the Madagascar side-necked turtle, known locally as the rere, is the only endemic freshwater turtle on the island. Once found throughout western Madagascar, the species has experienced a rapid decline throughout its range as a result of overexploitation for food and severe loss of wetland habitat. Only eight stable populations remain.

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Juliette Velosoa, of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, has led the recovery for the rere across Madagascar since 1998. Her project focuses on two key protected areas for these turtles: Lake Ambondrobe and Ankarafantsika National Park, which provide valuable freshwater resources for communities living nearby. Using the rere as a flagship, Juliette is encouraging community-led resource management and restoration of wetlands using techniques that favour conservation and improve fish stocks. Paired with nest protection and head-starting of over 6,000 young turtles, populations are starting to show signs of recovery.

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Wetlands are Madagascar’s most threatened ecosystem due to mass conversion, siltation and invasive species. Their exploitation is exacerbated by a lack of understanding of the vital ecosystem services they provide. In 2015, Madagascar declared 83 new protected areas but with no guidelines of how wetlands should be managed, making Juliette’s work both timely and urgent.

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Juliette’s project aims to:

  • Shape and implement locally-led management plans for two key protected areas that take into account ecosystem services and local customs.
  • Support villages to sustainably manage resources around these wetlands and establish community patrol teams to monitor and protect wetlands and their wildlife.
  • Promote the value of freshwater turtles among stakeholders in all protected areas where they occur.
  • Host a national workshop in partnership with government to support sharing of best management practices between protected areas with a view to expanding the project across Madagascar.

Why it matters:

  • The rere is evolutionarily distinct; its closest relatives are found in South America.
  • 75% of Madagascans live below the international poverty line.
  • This project will act as a national case study for wetland conservation.Exploitation, habitat loss and trade are causing global declines in freshwater turtles.

Rural communities provide the rere’s best hope for the future.



Rare ‘Rere’: Saving the Critically Endangered Madagascar Side-Necked Turtle
£70,000 over 2 years

The Critically Endangered Madagascar side-necked turtle, or “rere” in Malagasy, is the country’s only endemic freshwater turtle. Found exclusively across eight watersheds in western Madagascar, the species is a flagship for wetland conservation. Wetlands are Madagascar’s most threatened ecosystem due to mass conversion, siltation and the presence of invasive species, and their exploitation is exacerbated by a lack of understanding of the vital ecosystem services they provide.

One of the most important sites for rere is Ankarafantsika National Park, where Juliette’s Whitley Award supported the development of a village co-management vision for wetlands. Now, with Continuation Funding, she will build on previous work and strengthening conservation of two key Ramsar sites where rere are found: Ankarafantsika and Ambondrobe. Juliette will support local communities to monitor the species, protect rere nests, reduce major threats such as illegal fishing and invasive species, and restore wetland habitat by 40 ha per year. She and her team will also work to finalise the Rere Species Action Plan, and to implement it by developing a network for rere conservation across other sites. Working with communities, Juliette and her team are rebuilding healthy, functioning wetlands for the wildlife and people that rely on them.