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Malagasy president considers backing declaration on conservation goals

  • Madagascar’s president, Andry Rajoelina, is considering sponsoring a petition launched by the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) that outlines conservation priorities for the country.
  • Almost 90 percent of Madagascar’s flora and fauna is endemic to the island nation, but is severely threatened by forest loss and trafficking.
  • If the petition garners a sufficient number of signatures by August 2 it will be instated as the ‘Declaration of Ivato.’

If a sufficient number of signatories back a petition outlining conservation priorities for Madagascar it will be sponsored by the Malagasy president, Andry Rajoelina, and be instated as the  ‘Declaration of Ivato’ this Saturday.

As of Tuesday about 3,800 people had signed on to the petition launched by the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC). Participants from over 50 countries have gathered in the capital Antananarivo to attend the ATBC’s 56th annual meeting, which runs from July 31 to August 3 at the Ivato International Convention Centre.

The petition draws on a comment piece published in Nature Sustainability in May that recommends actions for the Malagasy government and key stakeholders to protect the country’s astounding floral and faunal diversity. An estimated 90 percent of the country’s species are endemic because of its isolation for millions of years. The country hosts over 100 lemur species, most of which are threatened, and lesser-known but equally enigmatic reptile and amphibian species.

Many of these are threatened because of unchecked forest loss, habitat degradation, fragmentation and wildlife trafficking. In 2018, Madagascar lost 2 percent of its primary rainforests, the highest proportion for any country. About half of the forests that remain are now less than 100 meters from a forest boundary.

Andry Rajoelina came to power in January this year. Image by Malavika Vyawahare.

The installation of a new government under Rajoelina this year raised hopes that the political stability could be leveraged to stem environmental destruction. During the leader’s previous term (2009-14) when he came to power on the back of a coup d’état, the country continued on its path of unbridled natural resource exploitation.

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in Africa and reports high rates of child malnutrition, making conservation particularly challenging. The president has emphasized sustainable development but the path to achieving it remains unclear. Conservation must “contribute to, not detract from, efforts of the country to develop economically,” the petition  notes.

The petition provides recommendations to guide government policy. Five actions identified as most urgent by the petitioners are: tackling environmental crime, investing in Madagascar’s protected areas, ensuring major infrastructure developments limit impacts on biodiversity, strengthening tenure rights for local people over natural resources and addressing Madagascar’s growing fuel wood crisis.

Banner image: A critically endangered indri (Indri indri), the largest of the lemur species near Andasibe, Madagascar. Image by Rhett A. Butler. 

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