Another season set to begin!

I found out recently that I received my research grant from PCI to get back to Madagascar this September. Yay! So that will cover my flight and a few other things.  We currently have enough in the ZAZA local monitoring team account to pay the local assistants to start up work in a few weeks and continue until late August.  Past that we still need to continue fundraising.  Another thing I found out this season from the local Peace Corps volunteer was that when he asked the older students in the village what they wanted to do when they grew up (he was putting on a work shop with career professionals, doctors, teachers, etc.), they ALL said they wanted to work in the forest when they grow up.  Being a guide for researchers in the forest is seen as the best, most reliable, enjoyable and well paid work by kids in the village!!

By ZAZA Project

First World Lemur Festival coming up October 25-31

This year, lemur researchers and educators around the world are celebrating the 105 types of lemurs, found only in Madagascar, for a whole week in October (25-31). If you would like more information about the festival or would like to participate in any way, start by visiting the GERP webpage here: or the WLF Facebook page (Lemur Festival 2014).


WLF flyer

By ZAZA Project

Exciting News from the ZAZA Project :)

Dear Friends of ZAZA,

I hope you are all doing well 🙂 Alastair and I recently got back from a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, where I presented at the International Primatological Society Congress. We also took some time after the conference to travel around and see some of Vietnam’s primate species, and celebrate a little bit because…. On July 10 of this year I defended my Ph.D. at the University of Victoria, and so now I am officially Dr. Jody Weir, and not a student anymore, for the first September in 5 years!

The hardest part of this transition has been wondering when and how I would get back to Madagascar. There has been a remarkable ‘baby boom’ in Maromizaha forest this year and I am so grateful that we have our ZAZA Local Monitoring Team working to follow the infants during their first 6 months of life. Within our 5 focal groups of diademed sifaka, we have 8 infants this year, and within 5 focal groups of indri, we have 3 infants!! My wonderful parents, hearing how much I wanted to get to the forest, check in with my team and see all these infants, have gifted me a flight to Madagascar as a graduation present -Best Present Ever!! This means I will be able to follow up with the research, the Local Monitoring Team and the ZAZA Scholarship Program in October when I get there.

Here is a little summary/re-cap of how the school system and ZAZA works in Madagascar:

The ZAZA Scholarship Program is about to enter its fourth year of scholarships. We are hoping to provide scholarships to 40 students this year (each scholarship is valued at approximately $100 USD) and we are only a about $600 USD short of attaining this goal.

School is compulsory for children 6–14 years old. The public education provides primary schooling for the first 5 years (ages 6-11). After that, students/parents are required to pay fees that essentially pay the teachers/administration etc. in addition to paying for their uniform, notebooks, book protectors, pens, compasses, rulers, and all other needed supplies. In addition, if there isn’t secondary education school (see next section) in the village, then students need to travel to the nearest village with a school each day, or, in most cases they pay room and board in the village with the school and stay there Monday-Friday and go home on weekends (school year runs October-June). This is the case in Anevoka and Beforona, the two villages nearest the forest where I work.

Working with teachers in the area we calculated that the cost for a child to go to school outside their village is roughly $100. Since most people live off their land, and by cooperation/trading with neighbors for food, cash is not something that most people have in these villages. Most people do not have cash, or need the little that they have for food, and so most children do not go to school past year 5.

Secondary school is a combination of junior highschool for 4 years (students aged 12–15) and senior highschool for 3 years (16–18). At the end of junior highschool, graduates receive a certificate, and at the end of senior highschool graduates receive their baccalauréat (equivalent of a highschool diploma). The University of Madagascar, established in 1951, has 6 separate Universities around Madagascar. The baccalauréat is required for admission to university.

Our first cohort of ZAZA Scholars is about to enter their last year of junior highschool and hopefully will earn their certificate at the end of this school year. If they are successful, and their parents are supportive, their next step would be the 3-year senior highschool program.

Again, the whole ZAZA Scholarship Program is based on the students who achieve the top grades. This is the only way to keep it fair and plus, that’s generally the way scholarships work 🙂

Please get in touch with me, or my mom (Jill) if you have any questions or would like to support the ZAZA Project in any way. We would also be grateful if you shared our website ( with anyone who may be interested.

Best wishes,

By ZAZA Project

New ZAZA video :)

Hi Friends 🙂

Thank-you so much for all of the support to the Expanding ZAZA Project.

Together we are making a real difference!

The team started working this week and they tell me that I already have 5 baby lemurs within my study groups!!!

My fabulous husband has put together this short video about the ZAZA Project

Please feel free to share with anyone who you think might be interested 🙂

Have a great day,


By ZAZA Project

The ZAZA Project is Expanding…find out more below

Dear Friends,

I have exciting news: The ZAZA Project is expanding! As many of you know, since 2011 we have been awarding ZAZA Scholarships to the top students finishing primary school in Anevoka, the village closest to Maromizaha Forest where I conduct my research on lemurs. Through the donations of thoughtful people all over the world, we are currently supporting 30 students in their schooling. One year of school for one student, including school fees, uniforms, notebooks, books, pens, pencils, geometry kits, pencil cases, coloured pencils etc. and room and board for 5 days a week during the school year (there is currently no secondary school in Anevoka) costs roughly $100. Most people in Anevoka are subsistence farmers and live off their rice and bean crops, they don’t earn actual cash, making it impossible for them to pay these school fees. Therefore, most children do not receive schooling past Year/Grade 5. So far, the ZAZA Scholarship program has been an enormous success. Families of the students and the students themselves, beam with pride when they are awarded their scholarships at our yearly ceremonies. The scholars are chosen based on their academic achievement in Year 5, and the top 10 students from each graduating class receive the awards. I make it clear during these ceremonies that the award comes from people all over the world who care about them, and their continued education (not from me) and that support each year is contingent on donations and on the student’s continued hard work in school.

Have you heard the saying: “Give a man a fish and he has food for one day, teach a man to fish and he has food for life”? Well, I have been thinking about that idea a lot over the past several months, as I struggled with how to continue the whole project long-term (lemur research and scholarships). So, in 2014 we have decided to add a new element to the ZAZA Project called the ZAZA Local Monitoring Program (ZAZA L.M.P). This program has 3 main goals: 1) provide dependable employment for local assistants, 2) continuation of data collection on focal lemur mothers and their infants, and 3) protection and conservation of Maromizaha Forest. Since 2010 when I conducted my first study in Maromizaha, I have been training a core team of local assistants how to: collect behavioural data on lemur infants and their mothers, input this information into an electronic database, and, most recently, use the internet to email the database to me. In March I received a donation that I used to purchase a small project computer, internet stick and photocopy datasheets. James Shelton, a Peace Corps volunteer based in Anevoka facilitated internet training for the team. So right now, exactly when the new baby lemurs are being born, my local assistants, Ndrinuasolo, Raelison, Olga and Fréderique are ready to start following these new tiny lemurs and their mothers, recording their every move, and helping me to learn more about infant development and maternal strategies of lemurs in this forest (see photo). They have already reported that the female diademed sifaka, Tandra, who had a baby (Kintana) in 2011, has a new infant, that the team has named ‘Tsikivy’, meaning ‘in good spirits’. I am very hopeful that with a little bit of help, I can provide work for these 4 local assistants, while collecting data on this year’s baby lemurs. Here is the really remarkable part….One day of work for one assistant costs 5$ and for all 4 assistants to work for one day costs $20. I have managed these costs thus far using mostly personal funds, but as my PhD funding ends this August, I would love to see if the ZAZA community, scattered all over the world, could help me fund these 4 assistants for the next 6 months ($2,160 will provide work for these 4 people for 6 months…where else in the world can we make such a positive impact?). From the ZAZA Scholarship program we know how far a bit of money can go. We also know how happy people are when their kids get to go to school. Imagine how happy they would be when they earn the money, themselves, to support their child’s schooling, their families and their community. Providing work for local assistants gives greater value to forest conservation and when the lemurs are routinely monitored they are less likely to be targeted by poachers (a real problem in Madagascar these days). I really think this could work, so this year, we are expanding our ZAZA dreams. From donations over the past several months, we already have funds for 25 of our 30 ZAZA Scholars to go to school in 2014/15. Yay! If you would like to donate to the salaries of these local assistants through the ZAZA Local Monitoring Program or to the ZAZA Scholarship Program please let us know. Also, if you know someone who might be interested in helping, please share this information with them. As always, please let me know if you have any questions at all. I hope to have updates on new baby lemurs and the local research team soon 🙂

Best wishes,

ZAZA Local Monitoring Team

ZAZA Local Monitoring Team

By ZAZA Project

ZAZA News from Madagascar :)

Dear Zaza Sponsors all over the world,
Thank-you all, so much, for your support in the ZAZA Project initiative to help send Malagasy children to school past Grade 5! After only 3 years of the program we are currently supporting 30 children. Our first cohort of students are now in their 3rd year of scholarships, our second cohort has just begun their 2nd year of scholarships and of course we have a new group of 10 children who have just started secondary school with the support of ZAZA Scholarships 
I returned from Madagascar about 1 month ago, and I am now back in Kaikoura, New Zealand, studying penguins and dolphins and of course analysing my findings from approximately 14 months with the lemurs in Maromizaha Forest, Madagascar. As always, it was an incredible adventure. This time I participated in a week-long conference at Ranomafana National Park and presented my early findings on infant development in the Indri and the Diademed Sifaka. I also assisted with a project led by Dr Lisa Gould, further south in Madagascar, looking at ring-tailed lemurs living in tiny forest fragments. It was very discouraging at times to see so much deserted land, and so little forest, but we did meet a few local people trying to make a change to tourism and protection of the remaining forests, and that gave us hope.
I also had the chance to visit Marojejy National Park in the north of Madagascar and see the gorgeous ghost-like Silky Sifaka. It was encouraging to meet Dr Erik Patel, who has been working in this region for over 10 years and has done SO much to help the animals and the people of the local communities.
At Maromizaha, I was surprised to find that in 2013, no babies were born in any of my 10 groups, whereas in past years we have had bundles! It could be that this year the rain, temperature and hence plant food availability were not as favourable for lemur reproduction in this forest. Of course, zeros are numbers too! This information is valuable in my long-term study of their reproductive patterns.
Last week, Madagascar held its first elections since the coup in 2009. These elections had been delayed several times over the past few years and it is VERY good news for Madagascar that they have actually occurred, and that it occurred mostly peacefully. It will take some more time before a new leader is appointed, as collecting and counting all of the ballots is a time consuming process in a country where some ballot stations are accessible only by foot! We hope that Madagascar will benefit from their new leadership and that the country will stay stunningly beautiful into the future.
Thank-you for your part in keeping Madagascar, and the world, a beautiful place.
Huge smiles,
Jody 

By ZAZA Project

Flying to Madagascar :)

Hi ZAZA friends,

I hope you are all well 🙂  Tomorrow I am flying to Madagascar to visit the forest, the lemurs and our Malagasy family.  Thanks to all of your help, we are able to offer 30 scholarships to local children this school year!!!  I will be in touch with photos when I can.  For now though, here is a new and fabulous video about the lemur babies growing up in the forest.  This is what my PhD is all about!  Huge thanks to Alastair for capturing all of these precious moments xo
Best wishes,
By ZAZA Project

Zaza Project News July 2013

Dear, Wonderful people all over the World,

I hope that you are all doing well, wherever you are 🙂

We have some exciting news to share about the Zaza Project.

I have been awarded a small research grant to cover my airfare, so at the end of July, I am returning to Madagascar for a short field season:)
I will be presenting at a conference, and am also hoping to teach the Lemur Behaviour and Ecology course again at Maromizaha.

This means that the Zaza Project research assistants are at this moment tracking down all of the lemur moms in the forest, and checking to see if anyone has babies yet….Exciting!!
It also means that I can personally oversee the distribution of Zaza Scholarship funds for this, the THIRD year of Zaza :):):)

Thanks to the generosity of so many people, we currently have enough money to fund 30 children for their next year of school. This is amazing, and makes me SO happy!!

We appreciate all that we have been able to do so far, and we are grateful for the opportunity to make such a difference in the lives of these families.

We are continuing to collect donations, so that this program can continue for future years, and we are currently trying to raise a little bit of money so that I can buy my research assistants in Madagascar new rain gear.  Let us know if you would like to help 🙂

Best wishes,

Jody & The Zaza Team

By ZAZA Project

October 2012 Zaza Project Update :)

Dear Friends of the ZAZA Project,

Hello from the ZAZA Project, we hope you are happy and healthy.  It has been an incredible few months for the ZAZA Project and we wanted to take some time to update you on the Scholars you are sponsoring and on the different projects that have been undertaken over the past few months in Madagasar.

To begin with, it was wonderful to be welcomed back into the community of Anevoka with so much warmth and trust.  We arrived in Madagascar in the end of June, and everyone we saw expressed how happy they were to see us back at work in Maromizaha Forest.  The field research went really well.  I employed a team of 3 guides, 1 guardian and 1 cook as my core team to camp in the forest with us and work almost every day, and employed additional cooks, porters and guides when needed.  I have attached a photo of our AllStar Team so you can see their beautiful smiles.


This year we had births in 4 Indri groups and 3 Sifaka groups, and so we were very busy finding, following, and recording the every move of the baby lemurs 🙂  The forest has recovered considerably from the devastating cyclone that hit the forest in February.  Our friends told us that there were NO leaves on any of the trees after the cyclone, but by June most of the trees were covered with fresh new juicy leaves again.  There were also many huge old trees that went down in the cyclone, and the staff worked for weeks to clear trails to make the jungle penetrable again.  This work continues, and is a very labour intensive job.

We stayed at a new campsite this year, as the two others had been badly damaged by the cyclone.  This campsite was very close to the village and so we had many more opportunities to interact with the locals.  Waking to the sounds of song birds, lemur songs and roosters, was a continuous reminder of the ever-increasing pressure of the very poor and very hungry people of this country on their forests.  Forests all over the country are threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture and from international mining and timber exploitation.  


We know that if Maromizaha Forest is going to have a chance of surviving, the local people must be involved in projects from the ground up.  Alastair often told me I was doing “more than I can” but to me it always feels like there is more I do.  We ran English Lessons at our camp every Saturday.  It was open to anyone who was willing to make the 30 minute hike into the forest, rain or shine.  We had a core group of 30 students, mostly children, that would indeed arrive over an hour early every Saturday for English lessons, even when it was windy, cold and horrible, they made the trek to learn English.  I gave them oral tests and certificates at the end if they successfully completed a certain number of tests.  There is a photo of the students holding their certificates attached to this email.  Look for your ZAZA Scholar!  Many of them participated in the English Lessons 🙂 


James Shelton, an American Peace Corps volunteer, is now stationed in Anevoka.  He is the one with the wild hair in the picture with Alastair.  He is wonderful for many reasons.  For one, he has inherited all of my teaching supplies and is continuing the Saturday English Lessons with the students.  For another, he has made one room of his Peace Corps house into the beginnings of an interpretive centre, with huge maps and photos of lemurs with captions that we have written out in English and in Malagasy.


We had several positive experiences with the ZAZA Scholars from the first group (2011-2012 cohort) and we know most of them, and their families quite well now.  We had a special native tree planting ceremony at our camp where each scholar got to plant their own tree.  We also planted several trees with a groups of Study Abroad students that came to Maromizaha Forest for a Lemur Behaviour and Ecology Course in September.  Trees are so important for a forest!!


The next group of Scholars we don’t know as well, yet, but several of them have been part of the English Lessons and we know several members of their families.  Thanks to you, there are now 22 students being sponsored by the ZAZA Project 🙂  Thank-you so much for your part in making the world a better place 🙂


The project is still in good hands.  Alastair and I are back in New Zealand and I have started the task of entering the thousands of hours of data into my computer.  Before we left Madagascar, I organized a team of local research technicians that had worked with me for several months and they will be continuing the follows of my baby lemurs until December, when they will hopefully be weaned.  Five members of this team are close relatives of ZAZA Scholars, the 6th is a Master’s student from the University of Antananarivo called Lova.  I have a ZAZA Project bank account in Madagascar now, and each month, money for salaries is delivered to the village.  We will definitely be back to Maromizaha, but in the meantime, while we work to finance our next trip and the completion of my PhD, I am completely enthused and I glow, knowing that the project continues in our physical absence.

Enjoy the smiles, and thank-you again for your part in making these smiles so beautiful,

Best wishes,

Jody 🙂


By ZAZA Project

News from ZAZA :)

Dear Friends of the ZAZA Project,
We hope this letter finds you well and happy in your many different homes around the world 🙂 As some of you know, Jody and Alastair are heading back to Madagascar to conduct another season of research on rainforest lemurs.  They will be visiting the 2011-2012 ZAZA Scholars and their families and having group gatherings at the local primary school to check on their progress. Jody is set to leave Canada in early June 2012, and we hope to send more scholarship funds over with her.  Thanks to the generosity of many, many people, we have already have sufficient funding for the first group of 10 ZAZA Scholars to complete the first 2 years of high school 🙂  Currently, our goal is to raise scholarship funds for the next group of students finishing primary school (Grade 5).  Again, we hope to provide scholarships for at least 10 children with the top grades.

At this point, Jody doesn’t have the trip after this one scheduled. She will be analyzing and writing her PhD after this visit and that will take her to August 2013.  Therefore, we are hoping to send enough money to sponsor both groups of ZAZA Scholars for the next 2 years. This will ensure there is sufficient funding to carry these 20 children well into high school. After that time period if politics and life plans permit, Jody and Alastair hope to return to Madagascar to continue their research and the ZAZA scholarship project.

Thanks to the many donations received already, we are actually quite close to achieving this goal.  At this time, we are seeking approximately $1,500 to ensure that these 2 groups of Scholars are funded for the next 2 years.  Remember that $100 provides a full scholarship to a student for 1 year.  So even a gift of $20 helps a lot.  If you would like to support this initiative through donations or other forms of support, please contact Jody or myself.  We would also love to see this initiative shared with other friends and family, so please feel free to send this email and our website ( to others who might be interested.

If you have already supported a ZAZA Scholar and would like to send them a letter and or photos, please send these to Jody before the end of May.  Thank you again for the wonderful support you have given these children and for the joy that the ZAZA Project gives us 🙂

Best wishes and heartfelt thanks,
Jill Weir

By ZAZA Project