The Mikea, who number around 1,000 people, are facing what many of them say is an existential environmental problem.Their ancestral forest in southwestern Madagascar is partly protected inside a national park.However, it is rapidly being chopped down to supply a growing demand for charcoal, the country’s primary source of cooking fuel.Some Mikea, having lived their entire lives hunting and gathering, are facing a shortage of game and other food and are now considering whether they must abandon the forest, and their way of life, for good. MIKEA FOREST, Madagascar — A spear, an ax, a fire starter crafted from cow horn, a hand-carved pipe, and tobacco: these are all of Bezery’s material possessions, and he carries them at all times. A member of the Mikea tribe, the last group of hunter-gatherers in Madagascar, Bezery has lived off food he gathers from the forest for his entire life — 60 years, perhaps, although he said he doesn’t know his age. He’s gone years without drinking anything, relying instead on a water-rich yam called balo. Having grown up, married and raised his children in the forest, he knows no other way of life. Now, however, he’s facing a crushing predicament. He says he must leave the forest to find work. “The forest is all I know, I don’t want to leave,” he told Mongabay while sitting by a campfire, smoking his pipe. “If there’s enough food I want to stay, but there is just not enough food in the forest anymore.” The Mikea, which unofficial sources often put at 1,000 to 2,000 people in the apparent absence of a rigorous population estimate, are facing what many of them say is an existential environmental problem. The tribe lives in a roughly 370,000 hectare (914,000 acre) swath of dry and spiny forest in southwestern Madagascar’s Atsimo-Andrefana region that bears their name, Mikea Forest. About half the forest, which is home to numerous unique and endangered animals, including several species of lemur, has been protected since 2011 as Mikea National Park. Like many of Madagascar’s forests, Mikea Forest is rapidly being chopped down to supply a growing demand for charcoal, the country’s primary source of cooking fuel.