Designation will Protect Rare Species in Madagascar
19 December 2008A landscape vital to maintaining Madagascar's rich biodiversity is expected to be officially protected by that nation's government in the next few weeks, according to The Peregrine Fund, a Boise-based conservation organization for birds of prey.
Located on the western coast of Madagascar, the Manambolomaty Lakes region is home to many rare species found nowhere else on Earth, including the Madagascar Fish-Eagle, a critically endangered species. The site will be added to the System of Protected Areas of Madagascar, a program that protects biodiversity while reducing poverty and promoting rural development.
"After 13 years of hard work on this project, it is gratifying to be so near our goal of conserving this incredible area," said Russell Thorstrom, a Peregrine Fund biologist. Details of the process leading up to protection for the region are described in a paper co-authored by Thorstrom and published in the December issue of "Madagascar Conservation & Development."
The 57-square-mile Manambolomaty Lakes region is being managed, with The Peregrine Fund's assistance, by two associations of local residents who historically used taboos, religious customs and social conventions to maintain natural resources at sustainable levels and allow a local economy to thrive. The system was threatened in the 1990s by immigrants over-fishing the lakes and cutting down portions of the surrounding forest, which provide habitat for fish-eagles and other endemic species.
The two associations were formed in 1997 and 2000 to benefit from a new Malagasy law that empowers local communities to sustainably manage their natural resources. Thorstrom said the associations have proven they are capable of dealing with such issues by blending new regulations with traditional customs. No traces of slash-and-burn agriculture have been found in the forest and over-fishing has been controlled. Meanwhile, the fisheries management system has increased annual local revenue by an estimated $1,562 per fisherman per season, according to Peregrine Fund research.
Becoming part of the System of Protected Areas will further strengthen enforcement and monitoring to avert resource exploitation in the future, Thorstrom said.
"Early on, we wanted to help the Malagasy people help themselves to conserve endangered raptors and other wildlife," Thorstrom said. "Our experience has shown that species can be protected successfully with plans that incorporate strong involvement by traditional societies and self-enforced codes of conduct that are handed down from generation to generation."
The management plan has been so successful that it is being used as a model by other non-profit organizations working in Madagascar, Thorstrom said.
In 1998, the Manobolomaty region was one of the first sites in Madagascar to be listed in the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty that protects globally significant wetlands. The region consists of four lakes surrounded by a deciduous forest. Significant resources include:
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