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The Ako Project is a set of six illustrated storybooks written by primatologist Dr. Aliosn Jolly about the adventures of young lemurs in Madagascar, teachers' guides, and posters showing the unique regions of Madagascar where the stories take place.
Each book focuses on a different lemur species. Children can read and learn about the Aye-Aye, Ring-tailed lemurs, Sifaka, Indri, Red ruffed lemurs,and mouse lemurs. These are not textbooks. The stories are meant to be exciting, beautiful, funny, scary.Each book is accompanied by a poster featuring the habitats of the six species of lemurs in the stories. Readers of all ages will enjoy learning about Madagascar's biodiversity and ecosystems. The posters are appropriate for classroom and home school use. Contact Lee Nesler, LCF Executive Director & CEO, for information about posters and other teaching resources at 941-322-8494 or by email at
Dr. Hanta Rasamimanana, Madagascar's 'Lemur Lady' wrote the teachers guides in the Malagasy langauge to help teach science,
literature, and languages in Madagascar's classrooms. The books and materials are now available in English and Chinese. Other translations are planned soon. Teacher, educator, and home school resources that meet Florida and national standards are available in English.
Ako books and posters are published by UNICEF in Madagascar. Most Malagasy children have little material available about their natural
heritage. Only 10% of the country has natural forest remaining. Most Malagasy never see a lemur in the wild, on television or in a
book. The Ako Project is designed to enrich empathy for and knowledge about the extraordinary biodiversity of Madagascar.
The Ako Project team includes scientists, wildlife artists, and educators, along with a dedicated group of donors and participating organizations.
The Lemur Conservation Foundation originated the project and publishes Ako materials in the USA. The materials are available in the United Kingdom through the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. UNICEF published the Ako Series in China. Contact LCF for more informaiton about the Ako Project in your classroom or your country!.
In Memory of Dr. Alison Jolly
Dr. Alison Jolly has been a great inspiration to many people in science, education, conservation, and
even personally for those of us fortunate enough to have known her and worked with her. Alison’s career began in the usual way – as a post- doctoral student in a university program. A chance assignment to watch lemurs in a Yale lab was an opportunity that changed the direction of her career and, it is safe to say, the direction of lemur science and our understanding of conservation. Her field research in Madagascar, focusing on lemur behavior and ecology, helped to transform our understanding of the evolution of social behavior.
In the early 1960’s, while still at Yale, she pioneered in-depth field research on the behavior and ecology of lemurs in Madagascar. Her insights transformed our understanding of the evolution of social behavior. Ideas she first put forward in the 1960s and ‘70s became part of the landscape of evolutionary biology and gave rise to an intellectual genealogy as wide as it is deep. In Lemur Behaviour (1966), Dr. Jolly was the first to establish, from her meticulously reported field observations, the odd fact that among the lemurs she studied, females typically had priority over males, upending the longstanding assumption that male primates are always bigger, fiercer and dominant.
Her seminal articles that followed this ground breaking work explored the evolutionary contexts that favoring female priority. She linked her field research with experimental studies of dexterity, or the lack thereof, in captive lemurs to argue that social environment rather than ecological factors drove the evolution of intelligence among primates. Dr. Jolly developed these ideas further in two books, The Evolution of Primate Behaviour (1972) and Lucy’s Legacy: Sex and Intelligence in Human Evolution (1999). In A World Like Our Own: Man and Nature in Madagascar (1980), Jolly simultaneously celebrated the enigmatic riches of the island’s natural heritage and offered an unflinching account of the environmental crisis enveloping people and wildlife alike, “… Madagascar tells us which rules would still hold true if time had once broken its banks and flowed to the present down a different channel …” No one has said it better, before or since.
As a young woman and scientist, going to Madagascar was certainly a brave choice and inspiring example. Once she arrived in Madagascar, Dr. Jolly became outspoken about the needs of the Malagasy people and their intrinsic connection to lemur conservation. Her observations about conservation outcomes and local people informed and elevated conservation practices around the globe. She taught us this very important lesson: local peoples must be partners in conservation for any success.
Dr. Jolly’s work is one of the longest and most impeccable of many lemur research programs in Madagascar. She began the Berenty ring-tailed lemur study and census in 1963. It continues today, directed by Dr. Hanta Rasamimanana, who started working with Alison in 1983. In addition to lemur research and science Dr. Jolly understood and embraced the relationship between education and improved conservation outcomes. She nurtured students around the world and today a generation of primatologists and conservation biologists benefited from her encouragement and support.
Alison dedicated herself and sometimes her personal resources to training young scientists, teachers, fellow conservationists, and children. For more than 20 years she dedicated her own resources to bring cohorts of masters’ level students at Madagascar’s prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure to Berenty. The best and the brightest of Madagascar’s young teachers, these students help conduct her ring-tailed lemur and sifaka census and plan phenology, attend professional conservation conferences, and work with leading conservation biologists from around the world. These gifted young professionals write about their experience in their masters’ theses and recommend how aspects of their personal field experience can be used as education resources by their colleagues around the country. Today, graduates of the Madagascar Student Teachers’ Conservation Education Fund initiative have earned Ph.D.’s, serve in the ministry of education, and have distinguished themselves in conservation careers. Lemur Conservation Foundation is honored to be the steward of Dr. Jolly’s Malagasy Students’ Fund for the future.
Younger children also captured Dr. Jolly’s attention. She wrote a number of children’s books, including the Ako Series: Madagascar Lemur Adventures, for elementary school children. Each book features a lemur, from Bitika, the tiny mouse lemur, to No Song, an Indri. The imaginative stories are fun for children to read aloud with sounds to imitate and brightly colored illustrations to inspire their curiosity. Dr. Jolly’s long-time colleague, Dr. Rasamimanana, developed teacher materials and together they brought the Ako Series to classrooms all around Madagascar. The still-growing Ako project epitomizes Dr. Jolly’s education mandate by marrying art, science, story-telling, and joy along with her delicious wit, knowledge of lemurs, their habitats, and Madagascar. Today the books are translated into three languages and are available on four continents.
The Doyenne of lemur research – her career in science is remarkable. Her example and leadership as a conservationist and a woman is unforgettable.
In January of 2014 Dr. Jolly asked LCF to work with Dr. Rasamimanana and the Madagascar Student Teachers’ Conservation Education Fund. We are honored to participate in this inspirational and effective project with Dr. Rasamimanana and to steward this part of Dr. Jolly’s legacy. In addition to this partnership, LCF publishes and distributes the Ako books in the United States and Canada and develops education materials based on the books for educators, homeschool families, and informal teaching programs.
You can support the Ako Project and Dr. Jolly's legacy of conservation education here:
Click Here To Donate To The AKO Project