Madagascar: stunning wildlife, landscapes, and cultural diversity highlights Madagascar's stunning wildlife, landscapes, and cultural diversity.

Madagascar is a land like no other. An island roughly the size of Texas or France, Madagascar is home to more than 250,000 species of which 70% are found nowhere else on the globe.

Geography: Madagascar can be divided into five geographical regions: the east coast, the Tsaratanana Massif, the central highlands, the west coast, and the southwest. The highest elevations parallel the east coast, whereas the land slopes more gradually to the west coast. Geography of Madagascar

Culture: are of the past; where in many areas taboo and tradition takes precedence over the law; and western-style religion is freely mixed with beliefs in sorcery and unparalleled funerary customs. The People of Madagascar

Plant biodiversity: Madagascar is home to as many as 12,000 plant species -- 70-80% of which are endemic -- making it one of the most diverse floras on the planet. Flora of Madagascar.

Animal biodiversity: Madagascar has some of the highest biodiversity on the planet. Of roughly 200,000 known species found on Madagascar, about 150,000 are endemic. Unique to the island are more than 50 types of lemurs, 99 percent of its frog species, and 36 genera of birds. Madagascar houses 100 percent of the world's lemurs, half of its chameleon species, 6 percent of its frogs, and none of its toads. Some species found in Madagascar have their closest relatives not in Africa but in the South Pacific and South America. Wildlife of Madagascar.

Madagascar News

Protected areas benefit nature & people, study says — with caveats (July 2, 2024)

- A new paper in the journal Current Biology that attempts to track how protected areas (PAs) fare on biodiversity protection and economic growth found that PAs “don’t have a negative impact on local economic growth.”
- However, experts say that the encouraging results must be interpreted with abundant caution because the study uses narrow definitions of conservation success and economic development.
- The top 10 countries that were most likely to report harmony between the two objectives included five African countries: Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Zambia and South Sudan.
- The performance of PAs in key biodiversity areas such as the Amazon and Southeast Asia was also lackluster, but this was in comparison with other areas, said Binbin Li, first author of the study. “It is not at the same level [as other regions], but it is not rare.”

Madagascar lemurs, tortoises seized in Thai bust reveal reach of wildlife trafficking (June 28, 2024)

- The recent seizure in Thailand of 48 lemurs and more than 1,200 critically endangered tortoises endemic to Madagascar underscores the global scale of wildlife trafficking networks that use Thailand as a transshipment hub.
- The operation was aided by intelligence from a joint transnational investigation between Thai law enforcement agencies and international antitrafficking organizations working to dismantle global wildlife trafficking networks spanning Asia, Africa and South America.
- Among the confiscated animals were ring-tailed lemurs, common brown lemurs, spider tortoises and radiated tortoises, all of which were suspected to be destined for illegal pet markets in Asia.
- While Madagascar authorities are keen to see the animals repatriated, experts caution that the country’s capacity to receive them are woefully lacking, and urge the government to step up law enforcement, combat systemic corruption and boost surveillance in Madagascar’s remote protected areas.

‘Mind-blowing’ new orchid species found in Madagascar forest canopy (March 22, 2024)

- Scientists from Madagascar, the U.S. and Europe have described a new orchid species from the forests of central Madagascar, which has a record-breaking long nectar spur relative to its small flower size.
- The orchid is pollinated by a species of hawkmoth with a very long tongue, similar to Darwin’s orchid, which was predicted to exist by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace in the 1800s.
- Habitat of the newly described orchid species is threatened deforestation and mining activities, especially from the Ambatovy nickel and cobalt mine nearby, though Ambatovy is funding conservation actions to protect the species.
- Madagascar’s unique biodiversity, including many species found nowhere else on Earth, is under serious threat from rapid deforestation driven by agriculture, fires and mining.

Madagascar takes key step toward improving transparency of its fisheries (March 7, 2024)

- Madagascar recently released its first fisheries transparency report, part of an effort to open up, democratize, and improve the sustainability of its fisheries sector.
- The report is a key step in a process defined by the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), a Seychelles-based nonprofit.
- It contains important information on traditional, artisanal and industrial fisheries, a list of the laws and regulations governing the sector, tenure arrangements, and access agreements — including previously undisclosed information.
- It also assesses the country’s transparency according to the availability and accessibility of data from six thematic areas as outlined by the FiTI Standard.

Three new species of frogs found nestled in Madagascar’s pandan trees (February 1, 2024)

- Scientists have described three new frog species that dwell exclusively in the spiky leaves of pandan trees in Madagascar’s eastern rainforests.
- While the frogs are new to science, locals have observed them for generations, and they’ve been given names in Malagasy.
- The frogs have a unique life cycle completely restricted to the trees, meaning they entirely depend entirely on intact pandan trees.
- Pandan trees, from the genus Pandanus, are threatened by deforestation driven by mining, agriculture and development, while slashing, burning and deforestation threaten Madagascar’s extraordinary biodiversity in general.

Beyond the myths: Anthropologist Alison Richard on Madagascar’s environmental realities and future (January 3, 2024)

- Madagascar is celebrated for its extraordinary biodiversity, characterized by remarkably high rates of endemicism. However, Madagascar is also synonymous with loss, particularly the extinction of its largest animal species and the degradation of habitats.
- The conventional wisdom holds that the island was entirely forested before human settlement, with early settlers decimating most of these forests. Alison Richard, a distinguished anthropologist, has challenged this traditional narrative of Madagascar’s environmental history by leveraging a growing body of research that suggests a more nuanced reality.
- In “The Sloth Lemur’s Song,” Richard weaves a captivating story covering the island’s geological past to its current conservation challenges. Her work critically assesses the narratives of blame, stemming from colonial history, that have influenced perceptions of Madagascar’s environmental issues.
- In a recent interview with Mongabay, Richard discussed her research and conservation efforts in Madagascar and beyond.

Photos: Top species discoveries from 2023 (December 27, 2023)

- Scientists described a slew of new species this past year, including an electric blue tarantula, two pygmy squid, a silent frog, and some thumb-sized chameleons.
- Experts estimate less than 20% of Earth’s species have been documented by Western science.
- Although a species may be new to science, it may already be well known to local and Indigenous people and have a common name.
- Many new species of plants, fungi, and animals are assessed as Vulnerable or Critically Endangered with extinction as soon as they are found, and many species may go extinct before they are named, experts say.

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Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide
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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
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