Niony Mamy Koloina Rakotoarivelo

Student Researcher—La Mananara Site

Koloina has five years of conservation and research experience. The majority of her fieldwork has focused on lemur behavioral ecology in Madagascar’s eastern rainforests. For her Master’s project, she studied the movement ecology of diademed sifaka in the Mahatsinjo forest fragment of Tsinjoarivo-Ambalaomby Protected Area. She has also gained a variety of experience working as a research assistant to several international student projects through Northern Illinois University, Portland State University, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, and the University of Guelph.

Since 2023, Koloina has volunteered with the association Tany Ketsa, a women-led youth organization dedicated to the environmental education of primary school children. More recently, she has worked with the NGO Planet Madagascar on a One Health pilot project around Ankarafantsika National Park.

Koloina received her BS in Biological Anthropology and Evolution in 2018 and an MSc in Biological Anthropology and Sustainable Development, specializing in Primatology, in 2023 from the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar.

Q&A with Koloina

What draws you to a career in wildlife conservation?

Since I was in middle school, I dreamed of having a career in environmental protection. During my first study, I traveled to Andasibe, and through the work of the Andasibe National Park staff, I became even more interested in Madagascar’s biodiversity. Over time, this interest grew and led me to study in the Department of Biological Anthropology and Sustainable Development at the University of Antananarivo, where I began to pursue my career in wildlife research and conservation.

What is one of the most memorable experiences in your career so far?

In October 2022, I was working as a research assistant to a Master’s student from Portland State University, collecting activity and vocalization data on red ruffed lemurs across the full 24 hours. During our first nocturnal shift (from 10 pm to 6 am), at around midnight, we saw an aye-aye! It jumped close to us, within 5 meters, but within a few seconds, it had retreated up into the dark of the forest canopy. To see such an elusive species, often described as one of the most difficult primates to observe, and to be so close (!), was really a cool experience!

Who or what inspires you?

Many Malagasy and foreign conservationists and researchers. They have done such incredible work to protect Madagascar’s biodiversity, especially lemurs, and they inspired me to pursue this work.

Is there a book or film that has influenced you or made a strong impression?

The Lemurs of Madagascar third edition made a strong impression on me. When I was kid, I thought there was only one species of lemur, specifically Indri, so imagine my surprise in discovering that there were over 100 different lemur species throughout Madagascar! It was amazing and eye-opening! To this day, it’s the most wonderful gift I have ever been given.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go, and why?

There are many places I want to visit in the world. One of them is South Africa because I really want to see the Big Five game animals, as well as all of the other incredible species there.

Besides lemurs, what is one of your favorite animals, and why?

I am very interested in whales. Their intelligence, behavior, and their role within marine ecosystems fascinate me.

Why do you care about Madagascar and its wildlife?

I care about Madagascar and its wildlife because it’s my country. I love Madagascar and I feel blessed knowing its incredible biodiversity is found nowhere else in the world. Unfortunately, Madagascar’s wildlife is under very serious threat of extinction due to habitat loss, and I want to contribute to wildlife conservation.