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

World’s smallest primate is fading into extinction, scientists fear (September 29, 2022)

- The Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur (Microcebus berthae) could soon disappear as the human imprint on its forest habitat in western Madagascar grows.
- Another team of researchers warned that the Milne-Edwards’s sifaka (Propithecus edwardsi), a species native to the tropical rainforests of eastern Madagascar, could vanish in 25 years.
- “The risk of extinction accelerates dramatically when we take into account deforestation and climate extremes,” said Eric Isai Ameca y Juárez, a specialist in biodiversity loss and climate change at Beijing Normal University, but added that deforestation alone could wipe out the sifaka.
- About a third of the tree cover inside Menabe Antimena National Park, where the Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur is found, has disappeared since 2015.

Eight new-to-science geckos described from biodiversity haven Madagascar (September 15, 2022)

- Scientists have described eight new-to-science species of geckos from Madagascar, all about the length of your thumb.
- They were elevated to species level following DNA studies of what was, for decades, thought to be a single species group of dwarf gecko, Lygodactylus madagascariensis. They add there could be up to 18 distinct genetic lineages.
- Scientists have found and named at least 150 new-to-science species from Madagascar in the last 30 years, and are still finding more nearly every year. More than 90% of species in Madagascar are endemic, meaning they’re found nowhere else on Earth.
- Given ongoing threats to the forests and ecosystems in Madagascar, scientists say we may not be finding and naming species quickly enough to know what’s being lost.

The Western Indian Ocean lost 4% of its mangroves in 24 years, report finds (September 7, 2022)

- Analysis presented in a new report finds the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region lost around 4% its mangrove forests between 1996 and 2020.
- The WIO region includes the coastal areas of Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique, which together account for 5% of the world’s mangroves.
- The report finds the majority of WIO mangrove loss was driven by unsustainable wood extraction, land clearance for agriculture and the impacts of storms and flooding.
- Mangroves provide vital ecosystem services to coastal communities and habitats, and sequester large amounts of carbon.

Study: Climate impacts to disproportionately hurt tropical fishers, farmers (July 15, 2022)

- The majority of 72 coastal communities studied in five countries in the Indo-Pacific region may face significant losses of agricultural and fisheries products — two key food sources — simultaneously under the worst-case climate change projections, a new study shows.
- These potential losses may be coupled with other drivers of change, such as overfishing or soil erosion, which have already caused declining productivity, the study adds.
- But if carbon emissions can be effectively managed to a minimum, the study’s authors say, fewer communities would experience losses in both the agriculture and fisheries sectors, indicating the importance of climate mitigation measures.
- The current global average temperature is 1.1°C (2°F) above pre-industrial times, and climate experts have warned that it could climb to about 3°C (5.4°F) higher by the end of this century if nothing changes.

On hazardous mine tailings dams, ‘safety first’ should be the rule (commentary) (July 6, 2022)

- A mine tailings dam in Madagascar has failed at least twice this year, sending hazardous wastewater into a lagoon relied on by locals for drinking and subsistence fishing, killing hundreds of fish.
- Rio Tinto refuses to accept responsibility for the fish or water pollution, and this is not an isolated incident: tailings dams are failing with increasing frequency and severity all over the world.
- “Safety First” is a new set of guidelines toward more responsible tailings storage that prioritizes safety over cost, which companies and investors should heed, a new op-ed argues.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Murky provenance of a Chinese fleet clouds Madagascar shrimp fishery (May 11, 2022)

- Thirty-nine trawlers are licensed to catch up to 4,170 metric tons of shrimp in Madagascar’s waters during the 2022 campaign, which officially began on March 1.
- Chinese-owned company Mada Fishery, which holds eight exploration rights did not apply to catch shrimp this year, and its eight vessels are now sitting idle.
- Three of the vessels were previously engaged in fishing violations in the Gambia, and under Malagasy law should not be eligible to fish in Madagascar now — unless there’s been a change in their ownership.
- But a murky document trail and general lack of transparency into the vessels’ ownership makes it unclear whether that has happened; transparency advocates say the implementation of simple measures would have made a significant difference in the investigation of Mada Fishery.

Deforestation-neutral mining? Madagascar study shows it can be done, but it’s complicated (May 11, 2022)

- The Ambatovy mine in Madagascar achieved no net forest loss by curbing deforestation in its biodiversity offsets, an analysis in the journal Nature Sustainability concluded.
- Project developers create biodiversity offsets, sites where they undertake conservation work, to make up for environmental destruction caused by their extractive operations.
- Ambatovy, which operates an open-pit nickel mine in Madagascar, carved out four biodiversity offsets to make up for biodiversity loss in its mining site, located in the species-rich eastern rainforest of the island nation.
- By slowing deforestation in these four offsets, the mine made up for forest loss in its mining concession; however, there isn’t enough data to ascertain how the measures impacted biodiversity, and previous research indicates that the mine’s offsets reduced impoverished communities’ access to forest resources.

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