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Conservation win in Madagascar: 7 new reserves established

  • Madagascar gets 7 new reserves located in its eastern rainforests.
  • Reserves protect endangered lemurs, herps, and other species.
  • Initiative led by Rainforest Trust and its local partner, Madagasikara Voakajy.

Indri Lemur. Courtesy of Rainforest Trust.Indri Lemur. Photo by David Cook.

Good news on the environmental front in Madagascar has been rare and fleeting in recent years, but today the Indian Ocean island’s Prime Minister gave conservationists a bit of hope by officially decreeing seven new reserves that target critical habitats for endangered lemurs, chameleons, and frogs.

The seven reserves, which span 30,277 (74,816 acres) of Madagascar’s highly threatened eastern rainforest, were established thanks to an initiative by the U.S.-based Rainforest Trust and its local partner, Madagasikara Voakajy.

“By protecting population strongholds of various lemur species, such as the Indri, Aye-aye, Fossa, Tarzan Chameleon and Madagascan Flying Fox, Rainforest Trust and Madagasikara Voakajy will help save these unique species from extinction,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Paul Salaman in a statement. “This is indeed a great day for the spectacular and wondrous wildlife of Madagascar.”

Green Bright-eyed Frog (Boophis viridis).
Photo by Robin Moore

The Mangabe Reserve protects 60% of the remaining Golden Mantella frog population. Photo by Robin Moore

Female Parson’s Chameleon (Chamaeleo parsonii). One of the world’s largest chameleons, Parson’s Chameleon can grow up to 27 inches in length, the approximate size of a cat. Caption courtesy of Rainforest Trust; photo by Robin Moore

“The creation of these reserves is the result of a six-year process that has involved the close collaboration of a diverse group of stakeholders, including local communities, government entities, and private sector entities,” added Julie Hanta Razafimanahaka, Director of Madagasikara Voakajy. “Working together, we have found a sustainable conservation solution for some of Madagascar’s most threatened species.”

The new reserves — which include Ambatofotsy, Mangabe-Ranomena-Sahasarotra, Ampotaka/Ankorabe, Mahialambo, Ampananganandehibe-Behasina, Analalava and Analabe — protect habitat for at least seven species of lemurs and 60 percent of the range of the critically-endangered Golden Mantella frog.

Global Forest Watch map showing 2001-2013 forest loss in and around Mangabe Reserve.

The designation comes at a critical time for Madagascar: environmental degradation is on the rise. According to data presented on Global Forest Watch, forest loss in Madagascar’s eastern rainforests topped a million hectares between 2001 and 2013, increasingly sharply since a 2009 coup, which was accompanied by an orgy of illegal rosewood logging and a surge in commercial poaching.

Still, most of Madagascar’s forest loss is linked to subsistence activities, namely clearing for rice paddies and cattle pasture as well as charcoal production.

Illegal mining. Officials survey the abandoned site of an illegal gold mine. Photo by Madagasikara Voakajy

Ignoring traditional taboos, hunters are increasingly poaching lemurs for sale as bushmeat. Caption courtesy of Rainforest Trust; photo by Darwin Initiative

Slash and burn practices pose a dire threat to rainforest in eastern Madagascar. Caption courtesy of Rainforest Trust; photo by Dawa
That makes inclusion of local communities a critical component to any conservation strategy, a point recognized in the development of the new reserves, according to Rainforest Trust.

“An inclusive conservation strategy ensures the permanent protection of the new reserves, reduces pressure on natural habitats, and improves human livelihoods for the local community,” said the group. “[Madagasikara Voakajy] has already succeeded in collaborating with surrounding communities to develop reserve management plans.”

“Madagasikara Voakajy is also helping to stop destructive trends by teaching surrounding populations about the importance of conservation through educational activities and the creation of wildlife-themed festivals.”

Ending those destructive trends is critical for the future of Madagascar’s wildlife, which is famed for its uniqueness. More than 80 percent of the island’s plants and animals are endemic. But the clock is ticking fast for Madagascar’s biodiversity. The island has lost significant portions of its forest cover over the past 50 years and 90 percent of its 100-plus species of lemurs are considered vulnerable or endangered.

Diademed sifaka. Photo by Michael Sale

Mangabe Forest. Photo by Robin Moore

Golden mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) a Critically Endangered frog species protected within the Mangabe Reserve. The frog’s entire range is less than 35 square miles in size. Caption courtesy of Rainforest Trust; photo by Robin Moore

Madagasikara Voakajy’s efforts include educating local children about the importance of conservation. Caption courtesy of Rainforest Trust; photo by Madagasikara Voakajy

Environmental education in the Moramanga District. Photo by Madagasikara Voakajy

Indri Lemur. Photo by Michael Sale

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