April 30, 2007:
Lush tropical rain forest, limestone caves, lakes, and rivers are some of the diverse ecosystems recently granted protection by the government
. The 15 new protected areas
cover more than 2.4 million acres of land – roughly the size of Connecticut – and are dispersed across the African
FIND MORE: Explore the sights and sounds of Madagascar
The largest portions of newly protected territory include 1.2 million acres of dense forest in the southeast, 684,000 acres of forests and lakes in a wetland complex on the northwest coast, and mangroves and lakes in the Menabe Central Forest. Smaller tracts on the borders of existing protected areas are designed to enhance corridors that will give wildlife space to roam and help prevent the extinction of endemic species.
Conservation of these regions will provide shelter to a number of threatened species, such as the Madagascar flat-shelled tortoise (Pyxis planicauda), the ten-striped mongoose (Mungotictis decemlineata), and the Madagascar sacred ibis (Threkiornis bernieri). One of the world’s most threatened primates, the greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus), survives only in the southeastern forests that are now under protection.
Benefits from these protected areas are equally significant for people, as they preserve the forests and watersheds that are crucial to local communities.
“Anyone who says conservation and development cannot work hand-in-hand is wrong,” says Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana. “It is important to stress the positive impact biodiversity conservation has on economic development and quality of life.”
Fulfilling a Conservation Pledge
In the past two years, President Ravalomanana has safeguarded nearly 5 million acres of land, bringing the country’s total area protected to more than 9 million acres and fulfilling part of his pledge to protect 10 percent of Madagascar’s territory by 2008.
In March, the Global Conservation Fund (GCF), created by Conservation International (CI), contributed $1 million to the Madagascar Foundation for Protected Areas and Biodiversity, which supports the creation and management of the country’s protected areas network. GCF plans to contribute another $2 million this year to the foundation, which was established in 2005 by CI, the government of Madagascar, the World Wildlife Fund, and other partners.
Makira Forest Triumphs Over Decades of Threats
What’s left of Madagascar’s rich biodiversity today has survived decades of threats, including deforestation and slash-and-burn farming. Less than 10 percent of the original forest cover remains.
The northeastern Makira tropical rain forest is now safe from these threats. Along with providing financial support, CI works with the government of Madagascar to manage and patrol Makira – home to threatened lemurs and at least half of the country’s 12,000 plant species.
FIND MORE: Makira Forest Helps Fight Climate Change
Madagascar’s efforts could serve as a model for other developing nations facing the delicate choice between using their natural resources for short-term economic gain and preserving them for long-term benefits. Costa Rica and Liberia have taken similar strides in conservation.
“President Ravalomanana’s commitment to ample protected area coverage is historic and of global significance,” says CI President Russell A. Mittermeier. “We hope that other leaders in Africa and elsewhere will follow his example and take similar decisive action.”
> Carbon Calculator: Offset to protect Makira and curb climate change.
> Feature Story: Makira Forest Helps Fight Climate Change
> Feature Story: Costa Rica Prospers by Protecting Its Ecosystems
> Biodiversity Hotspots: Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands
> Conservation Regions: Madagascar
> Conservation Strategies: Protected Areas