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MADAGASCAR

Madagascar Forest Figures

Forest Cover
Total forest area: 12,838,000 ha
% of land area: 22.1%

Primary forest cover: 10,347,000 ha
% of land area: 17.8%
% total forest area: 80.6%

Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -37,000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -0.3%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: -41.9%
Total forest loss since 1990: -854,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-6.2%

Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: -6800 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -0.1%
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: -43.6%
Primary forest loss since 1990: -34,000 ha
Primary forest loss since 1990:-1.5%

Forest Classification
Public: 98%
Private: 2%
Other: 0%
Use
Production: 26.3%
Protection: 1.4%
Conservation: 39.4%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: 32.9%
None or unknown: n/a

Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 12,838,000 ha
Primary: 10,347,000 ha
Modified natural: 2,198,000 ha
Semi-natural: n/a
Production plantation: 234,000 ha
Production plantation: 59,000 ha

Plantations
Plantations, 2005: 293,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 2.3%
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a

Carbon storage
Above-ground biomass: 4,778 M t
Below-ground biomass: 1,481 M t

Area annually affected by
Fire: 33,000 ha
Insects: n/a
Diseases: n/a

Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 5,000
Critically endangered: 34
Endangered: 65
Vulnerable: 63

Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 598,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 6,433,000 m3 o.b.

Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $66,976,000
Wood fuel: $8,363,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $75,339,000


More forest statistics for Madagascar

Madagascar, due to its isolation from the rest of the world, has tremendous biodiversity and high rates of endemic species: of more than 200,000 known species found on Madagascar, about 150,000 exist nowhere else. Unique to the island are some 70 kinds of lemurs [pictures], 223 out of 226 known species of frogs [pictures], and 33 species of tenrecs, miniature hedgehog-like animals. However, it is one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. More than 80 percent of the forests are gone—half of them since the late 1950s—along with a number of large, charismatic species.

Madagascar has suffered environmental degradation over a significant part of its land mass. Forests that once blanketed the eastern third of the island have now been degraded, fragmented, and converted to scrub land. Spiny forests in the south are rapidly giving way to "cactus scrub" as indigenous vegetation is cut and burned for subsistence charcoal production. Viewed from above, Madagascar's rivers look as if they are bleeding the country to death as soil is eroded from the central highlands. Each year as much as a third of the country burns and 1 percent of its remaining forests are leveled.

This ecological decline has not been ignored. Environmental regulations have been in place since Queen Ranavalona II first banned slash-and-burn agriculture in 1881. The French rulers passed their own edicts which aimed to protect wildlife and conserve forests. Nonetheless, these efforts met mixed results. On one hand there is still forest in Madagascar—forest that houses thousands of endemic species from lemurs to baobabs to Uroplatus geckos. On the other hand, the amount of forest today is less than at any time since Madagascar was first inhabited by humans less than 2,000 years ago.

At present, more dollars are pouring into conservation efforts in Madagascar than any other part of Africa. What can be done to ensure that this time around conservation will be a success in Madagascar?

Threats to Madagascar's biodiversity and ecosystems

Madagascar is among the world's poorest countries. As such, people's day to day survival is dependent upon natural resource use. Most Malagasy never have an option to become doctors, sports stars, factory workers, or secretaries; they must live off the land that surrounds them, making use of whatever resources they can find. Their poverty costs the country and the world through the loss of the island's endemic biodiversity.

Madagascar's major environmental problems include:
  1. Deforestation and habitat destruction
  2. Agricultural fires
  3. Erosion and soil degradation
  4. Overexploitation of living resources including hunting and over-collection of species from the wild
  5. Introduction of alien species
Tavy or slash-and-burn agriculture

Tavy is the lifeblood of Malagasy culture and the Malagasy economy. Tavy is mostly used for converting tropical rainforests in Madagascar into rice fields. Typically an acre or two of forest is cut, burned, and then planted with rice. After a year or two of production the field is left fallow for 4-6 years before the process is repeated. After 2-3 such cycles the soil is exhausted of nutrients and the land is likely colonized by scrub vegetation or alien grasses. On slopes, the new vegetation is often insufficient to anchor soils, making erosion and landslides a problem.

Tavy is the most expedient way for many Malagasy to provide for their families, and for people where day-to-day subsistence is a question there is little concern for the long-term consequences of their actions. From their perspective, as long as there is more forest land freely available for clearing, you might as well use the land before a neighbor does. Tavy for rice also has spiritual and cultural ties that transcend the economic and nutritional value of rice as a crop.

Logging for timber

Logging for timber is especially a problem in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar, particularly on the Masoala peninsula. The high value for Malagasy hardwoods (mostly ebony and rosewood which may fetch $2,000 a ton in international markets) makes illegal logging a significant problem in some protected areas.

Fuelwood and charcoal production

The endemic spiny forests of Madagascar are being cut at an alarming rate for charcoal production. In eking out a living selling little piles of charcoal along roads in southwestern Madagascar, local people turn towards the nearest plant source which in this case is often Alluaudia trees.

AGRICULTURAL FIRES

Every year as much as a third of Madagascar burns. Fires set for land-clearing and pastureland spread into adjacent wildlands causing damage to the island's unique ecosystems.

EROSION

With its rivers running
blood red and staining the surrounding Indian Ocean, astronauts have remarked that it looks as if Madagascar is bleeding to death. This insightful observation highlights one of Madagascar's greatest environmental problems—soil erosion. Deforestation of Madagascar's central highlands, plus weathering from natural geologic and soil conditions, has resulted in widespread soil erosion, which in some areas may top 400 tons/ha per year. For Madagascar, a country that relies on agricultural production for the foundation of its economy, the loss of this soil is especially costly. more >>

OVEREXPLOITATION OF LIVING RESOURCES

Madagascar's native species have been aggressively hunted and collected by people desperately seeking to provide for their families. While it has been illegal to kill or keep lemurs as pets since 1964, lemurs are hunted today in areas where they are not protected by local taboos (fady). Tenrecs and carnivores are also widely hunted as a source of protein.

Reptiles and amphibians are enthusiastically collected for the international pet trade. Chameleons, geckos, snakes, and tortoises are the most targeted.

The waters around Madagascar serve as a rich fishery and are an important source of income for villagers. Unfortunately, fishing is poorly regulated. Foreign fishing boats encroach on artisanal fishing areas leaving locals and the marine fauna with the short end of the stick. Sharks, sea cucumbers, and lobster may be harvested at increasingly unsustainable rates.

INTRODUCTION OF ALIEN SPECIES

The introduction of alien species has doomed many of Madagascar's endemic species. The best example of damage wrought by introduced species can be found in the island's rivers and lakes. Adaptable and aggressive tilapia, introduced as a food fish, have displaced the native cichlids.

There is really little use bemoaning past environmental degradation in Madagascar. Now the concern should be how to slow this ecological decline and how to best utilize lands already degraded so they can support productive activities today and for future generations. Without improving the well-being of the average Malagasy person, we cannot expect Madagascar's wildlands to persist as fully functional systems and continue to cater to the needs of people.

Making conservation work in Madagascar

Designating an area as a park does not mean local people will have their immediate needs satisfied. A park does not alleviate their hunger or satiate their requirements for shelter and other necessities. Conservation in Madagascar must address the needs of local people, and efforts must focus on poverty alleviation and economic development as well as protecting wildlife and ecosystems. Conservation cannot come at the expense of local people; local people must be made both partners and beneficiaries in conservation, and not enemies of it. In seeking a "solution" to the environmental problems of Madagascar—whether it be through agroforestry, extractive reserves, eco-tourism, or another strategy—the ultimate fate of its ecosystems rests in the hands of local people. While some would argue these wildlands can be "saved" by restricting economic growth, it is necessary to realize that parks and reserves will not persist, let alone be successful, unless local communities are persuaded that it is in their material interest to conserve them.

Masoala—The Eye of the Forest A New Strategy for Rainforest Conservation in Madagascar, a book on conservation in the biologically rich rainforest of the Masoala Peninsula, reiterates these points:
    "Everyone who lives on the Masoala peninsula lives directly from the use of natural resources. Almost no one at Masoala has the option, let alone the means, to become a lawyer, doctor, journalist, pilot, bus-driver, secretary, mechanic, or librarian, let alone aspire to a leisurely retirement. Average life expectancy in Madagascar is about 56 years. Everyone's survival strategy is therefore centered in one way or another around natural resource use. In such a context, if villagers find themselves with a little extra money in their pocket, the best investment they can possibly make is to plough the money back into clearing more land for rice or cash-crop production. As a result, while economic development and poverty alleviation are vital to help rural communities out of their dependence on survival strategies based exclusively on natural resource use, programs that aim simply to increase incomes often end up accelerating environmental degradation. Poverty reduction programs at sites like Masoala therefore need to be planned and implemented in coordination with natural resources managers to make sure that environmental factors are taken into consideration and that economic development is ecologically sustainable."
Success in conserving wildlands in Madagascar will require reconciling the inevitable conflicts between short-term needs of local people and the long-term nature of the benefits that conservation can generate on sustainable ongoing basis. The following sections will look at specific ideas that may address some of the underlying and direct causes of environmental degradation in Madagascar.

AGRICULTURE

Subsistence agriculture is a way of life in Madagascar. Tavy may have evolved as the most efficient agricultural strategy for given environments in Madagascar but as currently practiced—with fallow periods too brief to allow sufficient regrowth of vegetation—it is not a viable cultivation technique. A better approach to addressing the needs of poor Malagasy farmers may be improving and intensifying existing agricultural projects and promoting alternative cultivation techniques—notably permaculture as "savoka" gardens.

Savoka gardens are planted on fallow tavy plots and are planned as "a carefully selected succession of trees and plants on the fallow land that re-enriches the soil while producing a steady stream of food crops and other useful products." For example the use of wild ginger (longoza) adds phosphorus to soils while leguminous plants can fix nitrogen that is lost with traditional rice cultivation. The addition of perennials—crops which continue to produce for a number of years like citrus, manioc, vanilla, banana, mango, pepper, cacao, coffee, and rubber—can help restore nutrients to degraded soils and allow them to remain productive for decades while generating a diversified income and/or diet. An added bonus of such agroforestry techniques is that they maintain forest systems, soils, and biological diversity at a far higher level than do conventional agricultural techniques. As long as such fields are adjacent to secondary and old-growth forest, many species will continue to thrive.

Unfortunately, success with such regimes has proved elusive thus far. Tavy and the devotion to rice is so ingrained as a cultural practice that it has been very difficult to interest Malagasy in alternative crops that might improve soil fertility and increase crop yields. Successful implementation of savoka gardens will probably hinge on integrating rice cultivation with these new techniques. Other important factors are improved access to markets and the creation of credit facilities for poor farmers to save their earnings and allow them to borrow in times of need. Micro-credit facilities can provide significant economic benefits to local people and the local economy.

OTHER SUSTAINABLE FOREST PRODUCTS

Improved forms of agriculture are one of several means that can provide tangible returns to rural Malagasy living in and around forests. Sustainable development through harvesting of the forests' renewable products has the potential for generating income for local people without destroying their resource base.

According to
Masoala—The Eye of the Forest A New Strategy for Rainforest Conservation in Madagascar, omore than 290 plant species on the Masoala peninsula alone "are used by local people: as fuelwood, as wood for construction, for medicinal purposes, carving, and other purposes." Such forest products have a great deal of potential in both local and international markets. For example, two chemicals (vincristine and vinblastine) derived from the rosy periwinkle of southern Madagascar generated more than US$160 million per year in their heyday . Rainforest plants have already provided tangible evidence of their potential with remedies for all sorts of medical problems, from childhood leukemia to hangovers. Some 70 percent of the plants identified as having anti-cancer characteristics by the U.S. National Cancer Institute are found only in the tropical rainforest.

Vanilla has long been a lucrative, but eco-friendly crop for many farmers in northeastern Madagascar since it grows best under the shade of canopy trees. But, according to Masoala—The Eye of the Forest A New Strategy for Rainforest Conservation in Madagascar, "a new variety [of vanilla] introduced recently as part of an EU-funded economic support program is sun-tolerant" and therefore better suited as a plantation crop. The result is this new form may drive small producers out of business and contribute further to deforestation.

The key to making sustainable forests products an economic reality for local Malagasy is access to markets.

ECO-TOURISM

Eco-tourism may be the best hope for Madagascar to improve the standard of living for its people and indeed eco-tourism is growing in the country: according to the Bradt guide around 50 percent of visitors to Madagascar now visit a protected area when they come to the country (up from 20 percent in 1995). Responsibly managed eco-tourism can generate substantial amounts of revenue and employ large numbers of local people without causing significant environmental damage. And because eco-tourists pay to see a country's natural beauty it gives local people a direct incentive to conserve the environment around them. Eco-tourism can help assign value to an ecosystem and most eco-tourists are willing to pay directly for preservation in the form of park entrance fees and the hiring of local guides.

In Madagascar local communities benefit directly from eco-tourism through their 50 percent share of park entrance fees (such fees are divided equally between the national park service,ANGAP, and local communities), sales of handicrafts and "tourist items," and employment of porters, wildlife guides, park rangers, and workers in the service force of hotels, restaurants and lodges. The guide training system (ANGAP has a three-year program for new guides) helps the local community as a whole through the education of its members. With an education and an understanding of multiple languages, children in the community will have better opportunities in the future.

To be sustainable, eco-tourism requires careful planning and strict guidelines; short-term development can doom ecosystems and communities in the same way as unsustainable logging. Too many people, inadequate facilities, and poor park management can spell the end for the "eco" in eco-tourism. Eco-tourism, when carried out in a sustainable fashion, can be very beneficial to local people, the economy, and the environment. Eco-tourism should not be restricted to legally protected areas, but should also be promoted in natural areas that lack protection. The presence of tourists, when properly managed, can protect an area from certain over-exploitive activities.

INCREASING PRODUCTIVITY AND REHABILITATING DEGRADED HABITATS

In addressing environmental problems in Madagascar, it is important that decision makers not only be concerned with the transformation of existing natural ecosystems, but also with the more rational utilization of already cleared and degraded areas (for example the use of "savoka" gardens). To lessen future forest loss we must increase and sustain the productivity of farms, pastures, plantations, and scrub-land in addition to restoring species and ecosystems to degraded habitats. By reducing wasteful land-use practices, consolidating gains on existing cleared lands, and improving already developed lands, we can diminish the need to clear additional forest.

Research and experience have shown that the restoration of entire ecosystems is most possible in regions where parts or at least remnants of the original forest still remain and there are few human population pressures. Small clearings surrounded by forest recover quickly and large sections may recover in time, especially if some assistance in the reforestation process is provided. After several years, a once-barren field can again support vegetation in the form of pioneer species and secondary growth. Although the secondary forest will be low in diversity and poorly developed, the forest cover will be adequate for some species to return (assuming they still exist). In addition, the newly forested patch can be used for the sustainable harvest of forest products and low-intensity logging and agriculture.

ENFORCEMENT

Laws protecting the environment in Madagascar have been on the books since the 19th century but have had little effect. Effective conservation efforts will require the consistent enforcement of existing laws.

Corruption has long been associated with the violation of environmental statutes in Madagascar: pay a bribe to the right official and certain prohibited activities will be overlooked. This has all changed in the last couple of years with the push by President Ravalomanana to clean up business affairs and the legitimizing of ANGAP (Madagascar's national park service) by giving it the power to enforce the law.

A conservation plan for Madagascar

Expand protected areas

As many areas as possible should be protected in Madagascar. If protected areas can be developed in such a manner as to generate income for local communities, an increasing number of parks should theoretically create more economic benefits for a greater share of the population.

Increase surveillance of and patrols in protected areas.

This can be done at reduced cost if local communities benefit from the success of the park. If locals have a vested interest (i.e., are compensated via entrance fees, are hired as guides, make handicrafts to sell to tourists, and learn to value their ecosystem for the services it can provide), they will want to watch the park so that the source of their income is not diminished. Community surveillance is the most effective way to patrol a protected area, though it will probably be necessary to have park staff conduct patrols as well. Guides should be trained to keep watch for activities that are damaging to the ecosystem and report suspicious activities to park headquarters.

Build research facilities for training Malagasy scientists and guides

Madagascar needs to build its intellectual capital to grow its economy and make the best use of the country's resources. There need to be further studies on endemic species (many have just a name and a location, and new species are being discovered every year) for both pure research reasons and potential commercial applications. Improved crop yields and reduced erosion could also be possible with future research.

Establish programs that promote sustainable use

Programs that promote sustainable use are key to elevating the standard of living for people living around Madagascar's protected areas. Not all members of a community will see the direct benefits from employment in the service or production sector, and many people will still rely on traditional use of the natural resources around them. These resources must be used in a more effective manner to maximize productivity and minimize the impact on the environment.

Compensate displaced people

As more protected areas are set aside, it is inevitable that some people may be asked to move.It is important that these people are compensated for abandoning their existing livelihood and homes. While direct cash pay-outs are an option, a better strategy is to provide these displaced people with long-term income possibilities through training in better agricultural techniques or alternative crops.

Promote eco-tourism

Eco-tourism is perhaps the best hope for developing Madagascar's economy. Planners should seek to minimize the environmental impact and maximize the benefits for local communities.

Ensure economic success does not result in increased deforestation

As Malagasy begin to reap benefits from conservation-related activities, it is important that they not reinvest this income in activities that result in further deforestation. Traditionally, in many villages, the more money someone made, the more money was put back into land-clearing. Rural banks and savings institutions are virtually unknown in many parts of Madagascar. Such facilities, which would enable both saving and lending, could rapidly change the lives of millions of Malagasy through increased entrepreneurship and the ability to put away money for the future.

Encourage entrepreneurship

Encouraging entrepreneurship through such a microcredit strategy could pay significant dividends for the Malagasy economy as a whole. Studies in other developing countries have found that entrepreneurial skills among the poor are actually quite high when people are given access to capital. Default rates are typically quite low as well (do the poor have a greater respect for money?). Stimulating entrepreneurship through small low-cost loans is possibly a better approach than handouts, which may do little more than breed dependency and reduce human dignity.

Funding conservation in Madagascar

Conservation programs are not going to be cost-free. Madagascar already gets considerable aid from foreign donors—both NGOs and governmental development agencies—but funding these initiatives may require more creative sources of income to be truly successful. Handouts will not last forever and have the tendency to breed dependency. Here are some other funding strategies to consider:

Eco-tourism

Eco-tourism can fund efforts both through park entrance fees and employing locals as guides and in the service (hotels, restaurants, drivers, boat drivers, porters, cooks) and handicrafts sectors.

Bio-prospecting fees

Madagascar can earn revenue by allowing scientists to develop products from the island's native plant and animal species. The pioneer in the area was Costa Rica, which entered into an agreement with an American pharmaceutical company, Merck, to look for plants with potential pharmaceutical applications. Under the agreement, a portion of the proceeds from compounds that do prove commercially valuable will go to the Costa Rican government, which has guaranteed that some of the royalties will be set aside for conservation projects.

Similarly, in 2001, Givaudan, a Swiss fragrance and flavor company, sent a team to look for new exotic smells and flavors in Madagascar. Following their survey, Givaudan researchers "reconstituted" 40 aromas that could be used in commercial products. The company has agreed to share a portion of the profits from these products with local communities through conservation and development initiatives.

Sustainable pet trade

A second potential source of income for locals is the breeding and export of Malagasy plants and animals, notably reptiles and amphibians. Right now the export of reptiles and amphibians is poorly managed and leads directly to over-exploitation and probable extinction of some species. Many reptiles are illegally collected from reserves where they are becoming quite rare. Authorities know about the collectors, but corruption is rampant, and laws go unenforced. A 1990s survey found that locals were paid about US$0.01 for each gecko captured, while the exporter sold the animal for US$9-13 to U.S./European importers, where it retails for US$75. This system cannot be sustainable if villagers must catch 110 geckos to earn US$1: overharvesting is imminent. Instead, the implementation of breeding programs and/or farms for the exotic pet trade could employ Malagasy while satisfying market demand in a sustainable manner. The exportation of Malagasy reptiles and amphibians alone is estimated to have an economic potential of more than $US 1 million annually, or about equivalent to the foreign currency generated by clearing 39,500 acres (16,000 ha).

Carbon credits

For setting aside forest for the purpose of atmospheric carbon mitigation, developing countries like Madagascar can receive payments from industrialized countries looking to offset their carbon emissions. Carbon offset programs are popular in many circles since they can "provide a mechanism for motivating wealthy countries to pay for a benefit of forest conservation that transcends national borders." In effect, such programs promote "the transfer of funds from industrialized countries to tropical countries as a commercial transaction rather than an act of charity" (Costa, P.M., "Tropical Forestry Practices for Carbon Sequestration: A Review and Case Study from Southeast Asia," Ambio Vol. 25 No. 4, June 1996)).

Corporate sponsorship

Corporations have been a bit slow in "adopting" parks but they have the money and a marketing-driven interest in taking a closer look at such schemes. See below for more details on a potential plan.

The Linden-Lovejoy-Phillips plan

One interesting idea proposed by Eugene Linden, Thomas Lovejoy, and J. Daniel Phillips for tropical rainforests consists of dividing natural areas into blocks and then soliciting funding commitments from international environmental groups, development institutions, corporations, and other credible donors. There would be a bidding process after which an entity would take responsibility for maintaining forest cover and forest health in each block of the entire forest system. This plan could be a road for corporations to become involved in conservation as a public relations/marketing tool. A given percentage of the proceeds could be put into a trust fund with the pay-out ear-marked for ongoing conservation and sustainable development programs

For more on Madagascar, please visit my other site,
WildMadagascar.org

Suggested reading - Books


Unless otherwise specified, this article was written by Rhett A. Butler [Bibliographic citation for this page]

Other resources

Contact me if you have suggestions on other rainforest-related environmental sites and resources for this country.



Recent news on Madagascar

MADAGASCAR NEWS UPDATES>b> [XML]

Amphibian pandemic may have hit Madagascar, hundreds of species at risk of infection
(04/11/2014) Madagascar is one of the world’s hotspots for amphibian diversity, home to so many frog species that many of them don’t even have names. But soon the island may also harbor a fungus causing drastic declines – even extinctions – of frogs around the world. Ironically, the wildlife trade that’s often blamed for helping spread the disease may also give scientists a chance to prevent it.


Madagascar lemurs share spotlight with primatologist in new IMAX film
(04/03/2014) Tomorrow's opening of the IMAX film Island of Lemurs: Madagascar showcases not only endangered primates, but one of Madagascar's top conservationists: primatologist Patricia C. Wright.


Panda lemur making a comeback
(03/20/2014) One of the world's biggest populations of greater bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus)—sometimes known as the panda lemur—has doubled in just three years, giving conservationists new hope that the species can be kept from extinction. With the recent arrival of twenty babies, a community conservation project run by the Aspinall Foundation has boosted the local population to over 100 individuals in Andriantantely, one of Madagascar's only surviving lowland rainforests. Greater bamboo lemurs are currently categorized as Critically Endangered, though they were once believed extinct until hidden populations were uncovered in the 1980s.


The lemur end-game: scientists propose ambitious plan to save the world's most imperiled mammal family
(02/20/2014) Due to the wonderful idiosyncrasies of evolution, there is one country on Earth that houses 20 percent of the world's primates. More astounding still, every single one of these primates—an entire distinct family in fact—are found no-where else. The country is, of course, Madagascar and the primates in question are, of course, lemurs. But the far-flung island of Madagascar, once a safe haven for wild evolutionary experiments, has become an ecological nightmare. Overpopulation, deep poverty, political instability, slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging for lucrative woods, and a booming bushmeat trade has placed 94 percent of the world's lemurs under threat of extinction, making this the most imperiled mammal group on the planet. But, in order to stem a rapid march toward extinction, conservationists today publicized an emergency three year plan to safeguard 30 important lemur forests in the journal Science.


Microsoft buys Madagascar carbon credits
(02/15/2014) Technology giant Microsoft has bought the first carbon credits generated under a rainforest conservation project in Madagascar, reports Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which organized and backed the initiative.


Madagascar's new president pledges to fight illegal logging
(02/07/2014) Madagascar's newly elected president Hery Rajaonarimampianina pledged to 'lead the fight' against illegal rosewood logging in the impoverished island nation.


NASA data reveals impact of cyclones on forests in Vietnam, Madagascar
(01/30/2014) Forest disturbance in Madagascar and Vietnam increased significantly in the aftermath of cyclones that hit the countries last year, according to a forest tracking tool developed by a team of NASA researchers.


Rainforest news review for 2013
(12/26/2013) 2013 was full of major developments in efforts to understand and protect the world's tropical rainforests. The following is a review of some of the major tropical forest-related news stories for the year. As a review, this post will not cover everything that transpired during 2013 in the world of tropical forests. Please feel free to highlight anything this post missed via the comments section at the bottom. Also please note that this review focuses only on tropical forests.


Conservation Hail Mary works: Mate for near-extinct fish found!
(12/20/2013) Researchers are celebrating after an urgent global search turned up a female mate for a fish that is on the brink of extinction.


Madagascar's most famous lemur facing big threats
(12/18/2013) The ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta), perhaps the most well-known of Madagascar’s endemic animals, is facing a "very high" risk of extinction in the wild. The Madagascar Section of the IUCN Primate Specialist Group reassessed the Red List status of ring-tailed lemurs and upgraded the species from Near-Threatened (2008) to Endangered (2012). Ring-tailed lemurs are facing extinction in some parts of Madagascar because of continued habitat loss, and more recently, species exploitation.


Like ancient humans, some lemurs slumber in caves
(12/05/2013) After playing, feeding, and socializing in trees all day, some ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) take their nightly respite in caves, according to a new study in Madagascar Conservation and Development. The findings are important because this is the first time scientists have ever recorded primates regularly using caves (see video below).


Timber smuggling continues in Madagascar
(11/18/2013) Stocks of rosewood illegally harvested during in the aftermath of Madagascar's 2009 coup are being steadily smuggled off the Indian Ocean island, reports a paper published in the journal MADAGASCAR CONSERVATION & DEVELOPMENT.


Scientists identify 137 protected areas most important for preserving biodiversity
(11/14/2013) Want to save the world's biodiversity from mass extinction? Then make certain to safeguard the 74 sites identified today in a new study in Science. Evaluating 173,000 terrestrial protected areas, scientists pulled out the most important ones for global biodiversity based on the number of threatened mammals, birds, and amphibians found in the parks. In all they identified 137 protected areas (spread over 74 sites as many protected areas were in the same region) in 34 countries as 'irreplaceable.'


Bolivia, Madagascar, China see jump in forest loss
(11/01/2013) Loss of forest cover increased sharply in Bolivia, Madagascar, and Ecuador during the third quarter of 2013, according to an update from NASA scientists.


Sonar used by oil company caused mass whale stranding in Madagascar
(09/25/2013) An oil company's use of a high-frequency mapping sonar system was responsible for a mass whale stranding in northwest Madagascar in 2008, finds a new report.


Credits from first African government-backed REDD+ project go on sale
(09/17/2013) Carbon credits generated from protecting thousands of hectares of endangered rainforest in northeastern Madagascar have now been certified for sale, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the project's main organizer. The development represents the first time that credits generated by African government-owned project have been put on the voluntary carbon market.


Scientists outline how to save nearly 70 percent of the world's plant species
(09/05/2013) In 2010 the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) pledged to set aside 17 percent of the world's land as protected areas in addition to protecting 60 percent of the world's plant species—through the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC)—by 2020. Now a new study in Science finds that the world can achieve both ambitious goals at the same time—if only we protect the right places. Looking at data on over 100,000 flower plants, scientists determined that protecting 17 percent of the world's land (focusing on priority plant areas) would conserve 67 percent of the world's plants.


The evolution of cooperation: communal nests are best for ruffed lemurs
(08/21/2013) Raising young lemurs in communal crèches benefits both mothers and offspring, a new study has found. Andrea Baden and colleagues, of Yale University, studied a group of black-and-white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata) in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. This is the first study to examine the consequences of different parenting strategies in the ruffed lemur.


Deforestation alerts for Madagascar, DRC, Bolivia during Q2-2013
(08/16/2013) Loss of forest, woodland, and savanna increased sharply in Madagascar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Bolivia during the second quarter of 2013, reports a new assessment by NASA scientists.


Scientists map plan to save lemurs
(08/14/2013) Primatologists and researchers have devised a wide-ranging plan to protect Madagascar's most endangered lemurs from extinction.


Does size matter (for lemur smarts, that is)?
(08/09/2013) Does size matter? When referring to primate brain size and its relation to social intelligence, scientists at Duke University do not think the answer is a simple yes or no. In the past, scientists have correlated large brain size to large group size. However, in a new study published in PLoS ONE, scientists at Duke University provide evidence that large social networks, rather than large brains, contribute to social cognition, favoring the evolution of social intelligence.


Population of newly discovered lemur in Madagascar down to last 50 individuals (photo)
(07/30/2013) Researchers have discovered a new — and critically endangered — species of lemur on the island of Madagascar. The primate is formally described in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.


Madagascar occupied by humans 2,500 years earlier than previously thought
(07/22/2013) New research indicates that Madagascar was occupied some 2,500 years earlier than previously established. The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests a more complex view of the human role in the extinction of the island's mega-fauna. A large body of research holds that village communities began to appear in Madagascar around 500 AD. These were established by people of Indonesian and East African heritage, according to past studies that found linguistic similarities between the Malagasy languages of southeastern Borneo as well as genetic markers tying modern-day Malagasy people to both Indonesia and East Africa. But there have been plenty of hints that people came to the world's third largest island well before 500 AD.


Madagascar's rate of speciation slowing down
(07/16/2013) While Madagascar is famous for its incredible diversity of plants and animals, a new study suggests that the island's rate of speciation has slowed to a crawl.


To protect themselves, lemurs learn alarm calls of other species
(07/11/2013) Solitary lemurs in Madagascar rely on the alarm calls of birds and more social lemurs to evade predators, reports a study published in PLoS ONE.



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