See also:
» 17.01.2011 - Madagascar illegal logging continues
» 30.09.2010 - Tortoise poaching boosted by Malagasy chaos
» 09.06.2010 - Madagascar political chaos causing forest extinction
» 12.03.2010 - Illegal logging "funding Madagascar coup govt"
» 25.11.2009 - UN makes $6 million for Madagascar’s cyclone forecasts
» 23.09.2009 - Malagasy NGOs unite against plunder of natural resources
» 27.07.2009 - Madagascar’s humanitarian appeal revised down
» 27.05.2009 - Madagascar selected to benefit from conservation fund

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Environment - Nature

Madagascar protects "spectacular" wetlands

Young fishermen in Mahavavy-Kinkony. Wetlands are an important resource for the Malagasy people.

© Marc Rabenandrasana/BirdLife/afrol News
afrol News, 22 January
- The Malagasy government has decided to protect what environmentalists call one of the island's "most spectacular wildlife areas." The decree, signed by President Marc Ravalomanana, came into effect this week and protects the Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands.

The Mahavavy-Kinkony protected area covers almost 3,000 square kilometres of tropical wetlands, forests, savannas and caves and is considered as "crucial" for people, wildlife and birds by environmentalists. The unique area is situated in western Madagascar.

"This is a particularly important milestone for conservation in Madagascar because these are the first large freshwater wetlands to be protected that also support a significant and dependent human population," commented Vony Raminoarisoa, Director of the environmental group BirdLife's Madagascar programme.

The government of Madagascar granted the area a protected status for two years. This, according to Malagasy legislation, is a preliminary step toward the area being granted permanent protection. Another wetland, Lake Alaotra in eastern Madagascar, was also granted similar protection.

According to Mr Raminoarisoa, Mahavavy-Kinkony holds all of the wetland bird species found in western Madagascar, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. They represent key habitats for endemic birds. The wetlands are also one of the last refuges for Madagascar Fish Eagle, a critically endangered bird of prey with a population of just 220 birds.

The newly protected area also holds vitally important populations of other threatened species like the critically endangered lemur, Crowned Sifaka Propithecus (verreauxi) coronatus, and the Madagascar Big-headed Turtle Erymnochelys madagascariensis.

Finally, the Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands also are a vital resource to the Malagasy people for fishing, hunting and agriculture.

The area's protection is part of President Ravalomanana's 'Durban Vision', whereby Madagascar will increase its total protected areas to six million hectares by 2008 - up from only 1.7 million hectares. The 'Durban Vision' was announced by the Malagasy President in South Africa in 2003.

Environmentalists for long had lobbied for these wetlands to be protected. In 1999, the area was classified an 'important bird area' by BirdLife International, on account of the diverse array of threatened birds found there. The news today therefore was celebrated "a significant milestone" by BirdLife, which had been working with the government and local communities, promoting efforts to manage the Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands in a sustainable manner whilst monitoring and conserving biodiversity.

"It is a fantastic achievement for all involved." commented Rivo Rabarisoa of BirdLife Madagascar. "This decision is supported by conservationists worldwide, by local communities within the protected area and across the main Ministries in Madagascar who are concerned with the sectoral interests of wetlands - including agriculture, fisheries and extractive industries. We hope this achievement can be replicated elsewhere."

"We are delighted that such a large and well-known area can be offered full protection, whilst still retaining its vital use as a wetland resource for local people and communities," praised Dr Ramanitra Narisoa, President of Asity, the only Malagasy bird conservation organisation, which was also a strong contributor to the process. "This is fantastic news for conservation in Madagascar," he added.

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