Stephanie Winton is WPC’s 31st New Noah. Stephanie’s first stop was the 3-month long Endangered Species Management course at the Durrell Conservation Academy in Jersey, UK. After a practical placement on the island of Mauritius, she returns home to Canada to bring her conservation knowledge to the aid of Canadian species at risk. WPC is grateful for the financial support that the Alan & Patricia Koval Foundation provides to the New Noah program.

Sifaka in Ranomafana National Park

Madagascar – After bidding adieu to Mauritius, my home for the past six months, I hopped over to another island in the Indian Ocean: Madagascar, home to lemurs and an amazing diversity of other wonderful and weird wildlife found nowhere else on Earth. This new island felt both strange and familiar. I was welcomed by warm and friendly people and recognized many families of plants and animals that are shared with Mauritius.

Once known as the green island for its vast forests, Madagascar has less than 10% of its native forest left which continues to disappear at an alarming rate. The remaining natural areas and the wildlife they support face considerable threats such as habitat destruction and over-exploitation which are exacerbated by climate change, poverty, and corruption. Local communities must contend with smaller rice yields, less grass for their zebu to graze, increased crocodile attacks, and more frequent fires. These pressures make long-term species conservation extremely challenging.

While this may sound discouraging, all is not lost. I had the pleasure to visit several conservation sites throughout Madagascar and meet many inspiring people working to preserve the biodiversity of their beautiful island.

I was overjoyed to reconnect with fellow students from the Durrell Endangered Species Management (DESMAN) course I attended in Jersey as the first part of my New Noah journey. My friends, Hoby and Dina, are working together to improve the health and conservation status of several lemur species within Ranomafana National Park through health checkups and translocations. It’s fantastic to see the skills and connections from the DESMAN course being applied to help species in the wild! Check out the amazing work that these DESMAN graduates and their organizations are doing: and

My visit to Centre ValBio in Ranomafana Forest, where lemurs leap through the dense green canopy and birds fly overhead next to a rushing river, was a spectacular introduction to conservation efforts in Madagascar. When the park was established, the needs of the communities were considered in addition to the needs of critically endangered lemurs. Not only do Centre ValBio teams conduct ground-breaking research on lemurs and their ecosystem but also support local communities by providing access to health services, educational programs, and a reforestation program to restore the forest outside of the park and produce income generating crops.

Rice fields – a common sight in the countryside.

After two days on the road, I arrived in the dry forest of Ankarafantsika, where the Durrell Madagascar team has been working to protect and conserve critically endangered tortoises and fresh-water turtles for over 30 years through population monitoring, nest site protection, and conservation breeding. Despite the successes the team has had over the years, their work is not done. Ongoing threats such as trafficking for the illegal pet trade, poaching for food, and habitat destruction severely impact wild turtle populations. While visiting Ankarafantsika, I met the passionate group of people continuing this work in the face of adversity, including the next generation of conservationists in Madagascar from local field techs, knowledgeable park guides, and a graduate student researching methods of tracking released turtles to better understand their ecology and threats.

Setting up egg incubators in anticipation of pochard nesting season.

Madagascar pochards at the breeding centre.

My final visit was to Durrell’s Madagascar pochard captive breeding centre. This species of duck was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 2006. WPC’s own executive director and eighth New Noah, Lance Woolaver, was part of the team that established the captive breeding program and saved the species from certain extinction – starting in a hotel bathtub! Now there is a state-of-the-art breeding facility, and the team has successfully bred and released pochards back to wetlands that are being restored with local community support. The project is not without its challenges, such as supply-chain issues, power outages, and impassable roads, but the team members are dedicated and come up with innovative solutions like building custom water filters from locally available materials.

Tracking turtles.

Western woolly lemur in Ankarafantsika National Park.

Working in conservation in Madagascar requires perseverance, passion, and a sense of humour, qualities exemplified by everyone I met. While all the teams face complex challenges in their work, they never give up and are always looking for solutions. The three sites I visited show that integrating captive breeding programs and research with protected area management and community-based conservation initiatives can improve community wellbeing and help protect the unique ecosystems of Madagascar.

I am very grateful for the incredible opportunities I have had over the past year as Canada’s New Noah and the amazing people I’ve met along the way. It has been a truly inspirational journey and I look forward to applying the lessons I’ve learned to conservation issues in Canada.

Thank you, merci beaucoup, misoatra betsaka!

Follow Stephanie’s journey as Canada’s New Noah.

Check back often for new blog updates. In the meantime, check out the other great work being done by WPC to save some of Canada’s most endangered species.

Stephanie Winton

Canada’s New Noah and Species Conservation Planning Assistant – Canadian Species Initiative

Stephanie is the 31st Canada’s New Noah and is currently assisting the Canadian Species Initiative to build capacity for species conservation planning in Canada. Stephanie holds a master’s degree in conservation biology from Thompson Rivers University where she studied the impacts of road mortality on a threatened rattlesnake species. She has extensive experience working in conservation and research for species at risk reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds in Western Canada.