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Madagascar News

How small is too small? The uncertain fate of Madagascar’s forest fragments  [10/18/2017]
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Madagascar’s total forest cover fell by 40 percent in the second half of the 20th century, but fragmentation of the forests that remained progressed even more quickly.


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Conservation groups are working to conserve a number of small fragments. In Ankafobe, the local community has come together to reconnect three scraps of forest and defend them against fire.


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The risk that both animates this work and threatens to make it obsolete is that fire, agriculture, or other pressures could reduce the size of these fragments below some basic threshold of ecological viability.


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This is the third story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”




Island-hopping toxic toad threatens iconic Komodo dragon  [10/11/2017]
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The islands of Wallacea, which include parts of Indonesia, are home to many species that exist nowhere else in the world.


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The Asian common toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) has spread across the islands under the conservation radar while conservationists struggle to cope with a similar invasion in Madagascar.


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If the advance of the toad across Wallacea is not stopped, scientists worry it could have devastating consequences for the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon.




Conservation in a weak state: Madagascar struggles with enforcement  [10/10/2017]
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In the years since Madagascar’s 2009 coup d’état, the area around Ranomafana National Park has faced security threats from illegal gold miners, armed cattle rustlers, and bandits that have made it increasingly difficult to operate parts of the park.


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Elsewhere in the country illegal logging and mining, corruption, impunity and other breaches threaten to undermine conservation efforts, and limited funds make enforcement difficult.


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The problem underscores a broad challenge for conservationists across Madagascar: how to make progress on a set of environmental goals that depend fundamentally on the rule of law?


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This is the second story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”




Can community forestry deliver for Madagascar’s forests and people?  [10/02/2017]
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In recent years “managed resource protected areas”— forests where local people control the use of natural resources — have sprung up across Madagascar, aiming to spark both economic development and conservation, and to include nearby communities in important decision-making.


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But the community groups managing these forests often struggle to exert real control over the landscapes they’ve been asked to protect, and complain that promised development assistance has never materialized.


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Nevertheless, proponents say the approach can succeed with the right project design, and sufficient funding and support.


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This is the first story in Mongabay’s multi-part series “Conservation in Madagascar.”




How effective is conservation in Madagascar? Series starts next week  [09/28/2017]
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Madagascar has received more than $700 million in international funding for conservation since 1990, arrayed across more than 500 projects, yet the overall trajectory across the country still seems to be towards rapid declines in biodiversity and natural landscapes.


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“Conservation in Madagascar” is an in-depth series by Rowan Moore Gerety that digs into the reasons behind the successes and failures of conservation projects across the highly biodiverse island.


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Moore Gerety criss-crossed Madagascar this summer visiting conservation sites and speaking with Malagasy people and conservationists about their experiences.


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“Conservation in Madagascar” launches next Monday, October 2.




Audio: A rare earth mine in Madagascar triggers concerns for locals and lemurs  [08/22/2017]
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Our first guest on this episode of the Mongabay Newscast is Eddie Carver, a Mongabay contributor based in Madagascar who recently wrote a report about a troubled company that is hoping to mine rare earth elements in a forest on the Ampasindava peninsula, a highly biodiverse region that is home to numerous endangered lemur species.


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Carver speaks about the risks of mining for rare earth elements, how the mine might impact wildlife like endangered lemur species found nowhere else on Earth, the complicated history of the company and its ownership of the mine, and how villagers in nearby communities have already been impacted by exploratory mining efforts.


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Our second guest is Jo Wood, an Environmental Water Project Officer in Victoria, Australia, who plays for us the calls of a number of indicator species whose presence helps her assess the success of her wetland rewetting work.




Madagascar’s radiated tortoises have personalities, too  [08/09/2017]
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Endemic to Madagascar, radiated tortoises are Critically Endangered due largely to poaching for the illegal pet trade


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Looking at how corticosterone changes in a tortoise, scientists uncover two distinct personality types in the radiated tortoise


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Biologists argue that individual animals consistently react to different circumstances based on their personality




Troubled firm aims to mine Madagascar forest for rare earth elements  [08/08/2017]
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A Singaporean company called ISR Capital is working to develop a rare earth mine on Madagascar’s highly biodiverse Ampasindava peninsula. The company faces an investigation by financial regulators and turnover among its top executives.


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The mining of rare earth elements needed for cell phones and many other modern devices can have severe environmental and health impacts. This would be the first such mine in Madagascar.


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The Ampasindava peninsula is home to a number of threatened lemur species that could be further imperiled if the mining project goes forward, scientists warn. Local farmers and tourism operators oppose the project, fearing it could contaminate land and water.




What happens after a mining rush? Photographs from Madagascar  [07/31/2017]
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Precious and semi-precious stone mines, legal or not, are born, die, and spring back to life all over Madagascar.


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Much of the gem mining in Madagascar is unofficial and therefore unregulated, so the immediate impacts are high, both envirnmentally and socially. But people seldom examine the long-lasting effects.


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Toward the end of 2016, photoreporter Arnaud De Grave spent several months in the country’s eastern Alaotra-Mangoro region, in an area experiencing a mining recession.


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His photos show the toll of mining on people’s lives and the landscape.




Ring-tailed lemurs down by 95 percent? Maybe not.  [06/19/2017]
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Two studies published this winter claim that Madagascar’s iconic ring-tailed lemur has suffered a 95 percent decline in its population and that only some 2,400 animals remain alive.


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A new paper published in the International Journal of Primatology claims those studies exaggerate the severity of ring-tailed lemur declines.


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It contends that the other papers have methodological problems, including misinterpretation of existing literature, incomplete sampling of lemur populations, and restricted geographic coverage.




More than 300 smuggled tortoises seized in Malaysia  [05/17/2017]
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Customs officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport raided the cargo area of the airport on May 14 following a tip-off, and found the tortoises packed into five boxes labeled as stones.


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The boxes reportedly arrived on an Etihad Airways flight from Antananarivo airport in Madagascar, and were registered with a fake business address in Malaysia.


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No arrests have been made yet, but the case is being investigated under Section 135(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967, officials say.




Anti-trafficking activist held without trial in Madagascar  [05/08/2017]
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Clovis Razafimalala has been working to end rosewood trafficking in Madagascar since 2009.


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He has been imprisoned since September on charges of unauthorized rebellion and burning state files and property during a protest he maintains he did not participate in.


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No trial date has been announced, although one is supposed to be set by May 26.


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Activists say his case raises concern for the civil rights of Malagasy environmental activists.




Singapore convicts rosewood trader in historic CITES seizure  [04/26/2017]
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Late last month a high court in Singapore found Wong Wee Keong guilty of importing rosewood from Madagascar in 2014 in violation of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).


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Environmental groups are heralding the ruling, which reversed the decision of a lower court and sidestepped conflicting claims about the legality of the shipment by Malagasy authorities.


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The outsized shipment to Singapore was larger than all of the other seizures of rosewood in the world, combined, over the past decade.




Will Madagascar lose its most iconic primate?  [03/24/2017]
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Ring-tailed lemurs have suffered a drastic population decline in the last 15 years due to habitat destruction, hunting and live capture for the pet trade.


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The ring-tailed lemur is a ‘canary in the coal mine’ for Madagascar’s other lemur species, providing an urgent need for increased conservation capacity on the island.


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Ring-tailed lemurs could recover quickly if threats were removed, given their well-known adaptability.




LemurFaceID: The facial recognition tech helping researchers track lemurs in the wild  [03/01/2017]
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Thanks to threats like hunting and the destruction of their tropical forest habitat by illegal loggers, lemurs — small primates endemic to Madagascar — are generally considered some of the most endangered mammals on Earth.


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Researchers say a new computer-assisted recognition system called LemurFaceID uses facial characteristics of lemurs from photographs taken in the wild to make positive identifications of individual animals.


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Lines of research facilitated by LemurFaceID are manifold: individual lemurs can be tracked over time, records of how many individuals there are in any given population can be compiled, and the social systems of those populations can be more closely examined.




Study finds more than 350k trees illegally felled in Madagascar’s protected areas in five-year span  [02/23/2017]
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More than 350,000 trees were felled between March 2010 and March 2015, the study states, despite being in areas that have been granted official protected status.


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At least one million logs were illegally exported from Madagascar during those years — that’s more than 150,000 metric tons-worth of logs, per the study.


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The primary target of illegal loggers is rosewood and palisander, both species belonging to the genus Dalbergia, though other precious hardwood species like ebony (in the genus Diospyros) are targeted as well.




Newly discovered gecko loses scales in ‘really bizarre’ behavior  [02/16/2017]
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The new gecko was discovered in a reserve in northern Madagascar, a region threatened by deforestation.


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It is a new member of the “fish-scaled” gecko genus. All other species have large, shed-able scales, but G. megalepis has the largest of all.


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The geckos so easily shed their scales (along with other tissues) that researchers had to devise a novel way to capture them.


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The researchers think another five Geckolepis species may be awaiting discovery in Madagascar.




New species of dwarf lemur discovered in Madagascar  [02/07/2017]
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The lemur’s body is only about 16 to 17 centimeters long, with an additional 16 centimeters long tail, making it one of the smallest lemurs in its genus Cheirogaleus.


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The lemur has a grey body and a white underbelly, and its tiny hands and feet are lightly colored.


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It is separated from other species of dwarf lemurs both genetically, and geographically, the authors say.




Primates face impending extinction – what’s next?  [01/24/2017]
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Nonhuman primates are on the decline almost everywhere.


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The third most diverse Order of mammals, primates are under the highest level of threat of any larger group of mammals, and among the highest of any group of vertebrates


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63% of primates are threatened, meaning that they fall into one of the three IUCN categories of threat—Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable.


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This post is a commentary – the views expressed are those of the authors.




Study looks at positive and negative impacts of biodiversity offsets on local communities  [12/23/2016]
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Biodiversity offsets enjoy a wide range of support. In 2010, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed to promote biodiversity offsets as a means for businesses to effectively manage biodiversity issues associated with their development projects, and the IUCN approved a biodiversity offset policy at its World Conservation Congress earlier this year.


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The efficacy of biodiversity offsets in achieving “no net loss” or even “net positive increase” in wild fauna and flora populations has been the subject of much scrutiny, but the same cannot be said of the impacts of biodiversity offsets on local communities.


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New research shows that local people might actually be suffering negative consequences from these offsets, however.




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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