In an effort to safeguard
tens of thousands animal and plant species found nowhere else in the
world, the government of Madagascar announced today that it will more
than triple the size of its network of areas under protection from 1.7
million hectares to 6 million hectares over the next five years.
Under the plan, the government will expand its terrestrial
coverage from 1.5 million hectares to 5 million hectares and its costal
and marine-area coverage from 200,000 hectares to 1 million hectares.
Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana made the announcement before thousands
of delegates at the 5th World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa.
Deforestation has taken its toll on the island, reducing the country's
forest from 20 million hectares to 9 million hectares over the last
20 years. "We can no longer afford to sit back and watch our forests
go up in flames," President Ravalomanana said. "This is not just Madagascar's
biodiversity, it is the world's biodiversity. We have the firm political
will to stop this degradation."
The world's fourth largest island, Madagascar has only been inhabited
by humans for about 2,000 years. As a result, its plant and animal life
developed in pristine isolation and it now teems with species found
nowhere else. It is home to some 10,000 endemic plant species, 316 endemic
reptile species and 109 endemic bird species. It is also home to 71
primates found only there, making it the world's top priority for primate
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Conservation International
(CI) and WWF are among the international and national organisations
supporting the government in this effort.
The new protected areas are part of Madagascar's long-term commitment
to preserve the remaining 10 to 20 percent of its primary forest and
encourage local communities to engage in sustainable land use. Through
sustainable conservation and plans to turn the country into a regional
leader in ecotourism, the government hopes to meet its goal of reducing
poverty by 50 percent over the next 12 years.
- This commitment recognizes the importance of parks as a way to both
protect biodiversity and to promote sustainability and national development
in the rural landscape, commented today Dr John Robinson, senior vice
president of WCS's International Conservation programmes. "Madagascar
is clearly leading the way towards this vision by promoting long-term
partnerships with all sectors of civil society."
- This is one of the most important announcements in the history of
biodiversity conservation, added CI President Russell Mittermeier. "Madagascar
is one of the world's highest priority hotspots and a leading megadiversity
country, with levels of endemism unlike anyplace on Earth. President
Ravalomanana's commitment to more than triple the area under conservation
was unimaginable a few years ago and needs the fullest possible international
recognition and support."
Under the plan, the Malagasy government will launch a consultative,
science-based process to choose the best sites for new protected areas
based on the need to protect large wild places and the identification
of threatened species that are currently outside the protected area
network, called "gap species". The government also wants to create wildlife
corridors that connect existing parks, preserve rare habitats and protect
- This historic decision is a gift to the Earth that clearly signals
Madagascar's commitment to saving its unique and spectacular wildlife
and habitats, said Dr Claude Martin, WWF Director General. "President
Ravalomanana should be applauded and recognised as a global leader in
Currently, Madagascar's 1.7 million hectares of conservation areas cover
about 3 percent of the country's surface. These new areas will put the
government on track to safeguard 10 percent of its territory over the
next five years.