Seheno Andriantsaralaza
Author: Stéphane Corduant
2023

Seheno Andriantsaralaza

Conservation Biologist

An Environmental Call to Duty

meet seheno

Seheno Andriantsaralaza received her PhD in plant biology and explores the seed dispersal mechanisms of Madagascar’s endemic baobabs. Her research investigates what will happen to the baobab trees if there aren’t any animals, such as giant lemurs and tortoises, to spread their seeds and constitute the next generation. She has extensive fieldwork experience, leading students, managing team expeditions, and collaborating with local communities. Seheno is a lemur advocate and aims to make science communication, research and conservation, available to non-specialists. She is passionate about empowering women in conservation efforts and activities and highlighting Malagasy conservation organizations.

An Environmental Call to Duty
Nominated by: Rebecca Martin FN'02
Class of 2023 Location Madagascar
Author: Seheno Andriantsaralaza

When I saw a baobab for the first time, a majestic Malagasy tree, and thought that this long-lived tree was already in this place thousands of years ago, I was amazed at its ability to survive. Today, many poor communities in Western Madagascar rely on this natural resource for their daily needs. The iconic baobabs are not only culturally valuable but have an important economic value, generating income through tourism and the sale of their fruits, seeds, and bark nationally and internationally.

“We need innovative reforestation strategies integrating ecological processes and human needs into conservation actions.”

- Seheno Andriantsaralaza

A researcher makes a difference in conservation by turning evidence into action. As an Explorers Club Discovery grantee, I have been conducting regular field expeditions in Western Madagascar since 2021. My results proved the importance of protecting key species and restoring their ecological functions, such as seed dispersal, to recover ecosystem integrity. Our results revealed that natural regeneration is very low. My findings demonstrated that baobabs have lost their main seed dispersers, large extinct animals, and may rely on small native animals for secondary seed dispersal. In addition, deforestation, due to the expansion of shifting agriculture, is the most alarming crisis for baobab extinction. Local people are often blamed for forest destruction rather than invited to be part of the solution. To restore baobab forests and ensure continued existence of these trees for the next Malagasy generation, we need innovative reforestation strategies integrating ecological processes and human needs into conservation actions.

In my projects, we work closely with local communities during field expeditions and conservation activities, from building nurseries to transplanting baobab seedlings in degraded forests. Community engagement is key because people protect what they value. Thanks to my work, local communities are, for the first time, involved as co-leaders of baobab conservation efforts. I hope that in the future, local communities will be the leaders and decision-makers in baobab conservation and that preserving baobabs improves livelihoods in the west of Madagascar.

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