The Malagasy Minister of Environment, Water, and Forests officially created three new protected areas on Dec. 30, 2005, bringing a further 875,000 hectares of unique natural habitat under protection and helping the thousands of local people who live in and around them in the Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands Hotspot to plan for a sustainable future.
Makira in the northeast of the island, the Ankeniheny-Zahamena corridor in the east, and Anjozorobe in the central province of Antananarivo are home to some of the island’s most threatened species of fauna and flora, including populations of many of Madagascar’s Endangered lemurs such as the Indri (Indri indri) and the black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata variegata).
These areas also play vital roles in connecting isolated habitat necessary for the survival and continued evolution of the species that make up some of the world’s richest biodiversity.
Grants from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Conservation International supported participatory planning of two of the newest protected areas. Earlier in 2005, a CEPF grant to Association Fanamby helped in the creation of the 72,000-hectare Daraina reserve, officially known as the Loky-Manambato Forest Station.
Together, these areas have helped the Malagasy government reach its 2005 target of 1 million hectares of new protected area, which is itself an important milestone on the way to fulfilling President Marc Ravalomanana's pledge of bringing 10 percent of the country under protected area management by 2008.
CEPF's strategy in the region is to integrate local groups and individuals in the management of protected areas and reserves to ensure that biodiversity conservation is integrated with the sustainable use of natural resources.
"Poverty in these areas leaves local people little option but to over-utilize the natural resources that are available, and is one of the biggest causes of biodiversity loss," said Christopher Holmes, WCS's principal technical advisor on the Makira project.
"So successful conservation has to combine conventional protected area creation with socioeconomic research, environmental education, and communications campaigns," he said. "CEPF funding has enabled us to make sure our efforts are integrated with other key partners in all these areas."
CEPF's approach has been to complement protected area creation by enhancing private sector conservation initiatives that support small-scale enterprises. Around Zahamena National Park and the Daraina reserve, for example, grants to local nongovernmental organization MATEZA and Association Fanamby, respectively, supported efforts to help local communities farm sustainably, improve public health, and manage their natural resource bases.