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Madagascar News

Angry farmers set fire to offices of Madagascar eco group, gov’t agency  [07/13/2018]
- Large swaths of forest inside northwestern Madagascar’s Bongolava Forest Corridor, a protected area, have been burned to make way for commercial corn farming, raising the fortunes of many residents accustomed to living on the edge of subsistence.
- Last month, angry farmers armed with sticks and machetes stormed into the northwestern city of Boriziny, also known as Port–Bergé, to demand the release of people arrested for illegally clearing farmland inside the protected area.
- The group destroyed the offices of the local nonprofit that manages the protected area and set fire to the building it shares with an outpost of the environment ministry, as well as to the homes of the group’s coordinator and the government administrator for the area.
- The episode highlights the difficulty of achieving meaningful conservation in an area where the populace largely views ecological goals as conflicting with an important source of income.


Madagascar’s native fauna defenseless against toxic invasive toads  [07/13/2018]
- Toxic Asian common toads (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) have spread rapidly around the port city of Toamasina on Madagascar’s east coast, raising concerns that the invasive amphibians could take a severe toll on the island’s unique wildlife species.
- A recent paper vindicates those concerns: through a genetic analysis of 77 endemic species, scientists found that just one demonstrated clear resistance to toad toxins.
- A separate estimate published last month suggests there are now over 7 million Asian common toads in Madagascar. Reports suggest they arrived accidentally with mine construction equipment prior to 2010.


Uncertainty around Madagascar mine in wake of cyclone  [06/27/2018]
- The Ambatovy mine complex near Madagascar’s eastern city of Toamasina is a massive operation to extract nickel and cobalt from the country’s rich soil.
- The $8 billion complex represents the largest-ever foreign investment in the country.
- Over the years, local residents have suspected the mine of causing environmental and health problems, including air and water pollution.
- Locals now fear that Tropical Cyclone Ava, which hit Toamasina hard in January, may have exacerbated these problems — fears that Ambatovy and local officials assert are unfounded.


For Madagascar’s park managers, the science literature is out of reach  [06/26/2018]
- The park directors and conservation managers responsible for managing Madagascar’s protected areas tend not to rely on scientific research to make on-the-ground decisions, opting instead for experience and advice from others, a new study has found.
- Several managers, for instance, felt there was “limited research of relevance to them and their needs.”
- Others complained that even when relevant research was carried out, researchers often did not share the results with them.
- Overall, Madagascar’s protected area managers need better access to research, and more relevant research, to help them manage the country’s parks more efficiently and effectively, the study’s authors write.


Madagascar: Yet another anti-trafficking activist convicted  [06/19/2018]
- Christopher Magnenjika, an activist working to stem corruption and wildlife trafficking in northeastern Madagascar, was tried, convicted, fined $9 and released earlier this month.
- The charges against Magnenjika include “rebellion” and insulting local officials.
- Magnenjika’s supporters say his arrest and conviction were a pretext for keeping him quiet about the illicit trade in rosewood, a valuable tropical hardwood.
- Magnenjika is one of at least ten Malagasy activists who have faced imprisonment in recent years.


One tortoise at a time: Q&A with zoo veterinarian Justin Rosenberg  [06/19/2018]
- In April, authorities discovered around 10,000 radiated tortoises, believed to be destined for the Asian pet trade, in an abandoned house in southwestern Madagascar.
- The Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) took the animals to its rescue center in Ifaty, and soon, veterinarians and keepers from around the world began traveling to Madagascar to help the animals.
- Currently, between 9,000 and 10,000 tortoises are alive, with around 100 still in need of critical care.
- Mongabay spoke with a veterinarian who spent several weeks at TSA’s facility about the ongoing efforts.


Primate-rich countries are becoming less hospitable places for monkeys, apes and lemurs  [06/15/2018]
- New research shows that many of the 65 percent of the world’s primate species found in four countries — Brazil, Indonesia, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo — face the threat of extinction.
- The scientists involved in the study used maps of primate ranges and information on the threats they face to predict what might happen to the animals through the end of the 21st century.
- They found that increases in the amount of land turned over for human food production could cause the primate habitats to shrink substantially in these countries.
- However, the team also found that intensive conservation measures could dramatically reduce the loss of primate habitat by 2100 and potentially avert the mass extinction of these species.


Madagascar court upholds sentence for environmental activist  [05/31/2018]
- In September 2017 a farmer named Raleva questioned a mining company about its permits during a meeting in his village in southeastern Madagascar. He was promptly arrested on charges of impersonating a local official.
- In October, he was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison, but immediately released on parole — a common tactic in Madagascar that appears to be aimed at silencing opposition.
- On May 22, an appeals court announced its decision to uphold the conviction.
- Advocacy groups are now trying to put together a legal team that can take the case to Madagascar’s Supreme Court.


Lessons for developing countries in expansion of Madagascar’s protected area network  [05/21/2018]
- Between 2003 and 2016, protected area coverage in Madagascar was quadrupled, from 1.7 to 7.1 million hectares. Whereas most protected areas (PAs) established in Madagascar prior to 2003 were managed solely by the Malagasy government, post-2003 PAs adopted a variety of new management and governance systems.
- The aggressive growth of Madagascar’s PA system and the diversity of approaches employed make for a particularly poignant case study, according to the authors of a recent paper published in the journal Biological Conservation that looks at what other developed countries can take away from Madagascar’s experience.
- The researchers hope that the successes achieved and the challenges identified via their examination of Madagascar’s efforts to expand its PA system might help inform how global protected area coverage continues to expand.


‘Rainbow’ chameleon among three new species described from Madagascar  [05/16/2018]
- Researchers discovered the brilliantly colored rainbow chameleon, now named Calumma uetzi, during an expedition to the remote Sorata massif in northern Madagascar in 2012.
- Over surveys between 2015 and 2016, the researchers found another new species of chameleon, now dubbed Calumma juliae, in a 15-square-kilometer patch of forest. The researchers were unable to find any males of this species.
- They also found only a single male specimen of the third new chameleon species, Calumma lefona, spotted in Andrevorevo in northern Madagascar.


Sifaka lemurs listed as “critically endangered” amid mysterious die-off  [05/15/2018]
- In the last month and a half, at least 31 Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) have died in Berenty Reserve near Madagascar’s southern tip.
- It’s one of the largest lemur die-offs scientists can remember.
- Experts believe that a parasite or tick-borne disease is likely to blame, but the exact cause remains unknown.
- At a large IUCN meeting held last week in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, primate specialists decided to uplist all nine sifaka species from endangered to critically endangered.


‘Monumental’ bust in Madagascar triggers effort to save thousands of endangered tortoises  [04/25/2018]
- Authorities discovered 9,888 starving and dehydrated radiated tortoises in a vacant house in southwestern Madagascar on April 10.
- Since then, a team of organizations led by the Turtle Survival Alliance has been working to provide care for the critically endangered tortoises, 574 of which died during the first week.
- The tortoises, endemic to Madagascar, have lost around 40 percent of their habitat to deforestation, and poachers commonly capture them for the pet trade in Asia and the United States.


More than 40 percent of Madagascar’s freshwater life sliding toward extinction, IUCN finds  [03/22/2018]
- In an assessment of 653 freshwater plant and animal species living on Madagascar and nearby islands, biologists found that 43 percent are threatened with extinction or there isn’t enough information to assess how well they’re doing.
- Nearly 80 percent of endemic plants examined in the study face extinction.
- The team lists unsustainable farming practices, deforestation, dam construction, mining and the overuse of natural resources, such as overfishing, as causes for the widespread declines.


Madagascar: Conservation official arrested for killing 11 endangered lemurs  [03/16/2018]
- Two weeks ago, the bodies of 11 critically endangered lemurs were discovered in the Zahamena Ankeniheny Corridor protected area in eastern Madagascar.
- The lemurs were allegedly killed by one of the local officials charged with protecting them, to the dismay of conservation leaders.
- The alleged poacher was arrested on Feb. 27, and this week the police set out to arrest his suspected accomplices.
- The Madagascar government reacted to the poaching incident at the highest level, including pledges by the prime minister and minister of the environment to crack down on poaching.


Will Madagascar’s industrial shrimp trawlers make way for local fishers?  [03/14/2018]
- Shrimp is one of Madagascar’s most lucrative exports.
- But local fishers and environmental groups say shrimp trawlers are harming the country’s marine environment and leaving too few fish in the sea for the fishing communities that depend on them.
- Until now, relatively little has been done to address the issue.
- But there are small signs that may be starting to change, with fishing communities raising their voices to press for exclusive access to Madagascar’s coastal waters.


DJ and ornithologists create wildlife music game  [02/21/2018]
- Wildlife DJ Ben Mirin has teamed up with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Cornell Hip Hop Collection on a new online game that uses wildlife recordings.
- Players take sound recordings of wild creatures and transform them into loops, creating a wide variety of song clips. Players also learn about the animals and the habitats they live in.
- Mirin was also a guest on Mongabay’s podcast in 2017.


Study delves into overlooked community perceptions of conservation impact  [02/20/2018]
- A new study measures the impacts of conservation projects on people’s lives by letting the people define what matters to them.
- The study has adapted the Global Person Generated Index (GPGI), an index that has previously been used in the health sector to see what people consider important for their quality of life, and lets the people rate the performance of those domains.
- The study found that overall, the local people were most commonly concerned with agriculture, health, livestock, education, jobs, and family-related activities, but more than 50 percent of the people who were interviewed said that the conservation projects had had no significant impacts on these aspects of their well-being.


Scientists discover 18 new spider-hunting spiders from Madagascar  [02/09/2018]
- Researchers have added 18 new species to the assassin spider family, upping the total number of known Eriauchenius and Madagascarchaea species to 26.
- Assassin spiders, also known as pelican spiders, have special physical and behavioral adaptations that allow them to hunt other spiders.
- The new species were discovered in Madagascar’s forests and through examination of previously collected museum specimens.
- Madagascar is currently experiencing high levels of deforestation. Researchers say the loss of Madagascar’s forests is putting the new assassin spiders – as well as many other species – at risk of extinction.


Tree-dwelling animals can ‘climb’ away from climate change, study finds  [02/09/2018]
- A new study has found that the temperature within a tropical forest varies considerably, with tree canopies experiencing wider extremes of heating and cooling compared to the ground or soil.
- The range of canopy temperatures in tropical forests at the bottom of mountains overlaps considerably with those at the top of the mountains, which suggests that canopy animals likely have the physiology that might allow them to move across a mountain gradient freely unhindered by the climate.
- This implies that tree-dwelling tropical animals might be more resilient to climate change, according to the study.


There’s a new member of the lemur family  [01/11/2018]
- Grove’s Dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus grovesi) was discovered in two of Madagascar’s national parks, Ranomafana and Andringitra, both of which are part of the Rainforests of Atsinanana UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The new lemur is a nocturnal primate that is smaller than a squirrel. The fur on its back, limbs, and head are a reddish-brown in color, and there are brownish-black rings around its large eyes.
- The species was named for British-Australian biological anthropologist and primate taxonomist Colin Groves, who passed away last year.


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    Books

  • Madagascar, 9th: The Bradt Travel Guide
  • Madagascar Wildlife, 3rd: A Visitor's Guide
  • Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide
  • Madagascar Travel Pack
  • Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands
  • Birds of Madagascar: A Photographic Guide
  • Lonely Planet Madagascar & Comoros
  • The Natural History of Madagascar
  • Malagasy-English: Dictionary and Phrasebook
  • Lords and Lemurs
  • The Eighth Continent: Life, Death, and Discovery in the Lost World of Madagascar
  • The Aye-Aye and I : A Rescue Journey to Save One of the World's Most Intriguing Creatures from Extinction
  • Shadows in the Dawn: The Lemurs of Madagascar