In a globally fast-changing world, dedicated conservationists play a central role in societies moving towards the achievement of sustainable development. How do people become advocates for nature? Research suggests that childhood experiences in natural places are core determinants for the development of environmental stewardship. In many developing countries, however, access to intact natural environments is limited. This study explores formative influences on individuals who actively contribute to nature conservation and environmental education (EE) in Madagascar. We conducted nine semi-structured interviews with participants in a national EE workshop. Formative experiences were reported mainly from university years, and influential persons were researchers and high school teachers, many from abroad. The media also play a considerable role, while negative experiences, familial influences, or experience of natural areas during childhood were rarely mentioned. In contrast to former studies, the results suggest that direct experiences of nature can still be decisive in determining a young person’s path as a dedicated environmental practitioner during young adulthood. Role models who are active in the conservation and sustainable development fields can compensate for a lack of familial models. These findings might require a rethinking of current educational practices in Madagascar because children might not be the only important group to target with educational interventions.
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