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Madagascar: Rainforest

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Madagascar Rainforest
Madagascar, located approximately 400 kilometers east of Africa is the world's fourth largest island. Because of its isolation it is occupied by some of the most unusual and rare species of plants and animals on earth. Madagascar was at one time formerly an independent kingdom; became a French colony in 1896 and regained independence in 1960. During 1992-93, free presidential and National Assembly elections were held ending 17 years of single-party rule(Science 1990). The main historical problem with international trade has been the correlated destruction of the environment. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of deforestation. In Madagascar, (Economic Geography, 1993) people have been cutting down the forests for decades. Throughout the past century, much of the rainforests of Madagascar have disappeared. People have begun moving out of the cities, industries have started to expand, and the use of land for farming (particularly coffee) has dramatically increased. All of these phenomenons have led to the destruction of the forest of Madagascar. Many plants and animal species have been severely endangered due to the deforestation (New Scientist 1990). With a current population near 14 million and growing at roughly 3% yearly combined with a per capita income of $230 per year, the major threats to the remaining forest are driven by subsistence needs and cutting for fuel. This has become a major issue, not only because of the value that the forest has on the living environment on earth, but also because of Madagascar's unusual and rare species. Biologically, Madagascar is one of the richest areas on earth. Approximately five percent of the world's species reside in Madagascar, and the island has 8,000 endemic species of flowering plants alone. The tropical rain forest of Madagascar before human colonization was thought to have covered much of the eastern coastal plains and the eastern (CIA World Fact Book) escarpment of the central plateau that runs along most of the 1600 kilometers length of the island. Estimates of the extent of the remaining eastern rain forests have ranged from 2.5 to 6.9 million ha (100ha=1km). In addition, approximately 165,000 ha of forest are estimated to be cleared per year. This rare jewel of earth is in grave danger. Rapid deforestation, caused predominantly by the large population boom of the developing country, economic downturn, and mass migration to cities, is destroying much of the natural habitat of Madagascar. We need to bring much needed attention to the ongoing habitat loss in Madagascar. In the aftermath of a coup, illegal loggers ravaged Madagascar’s reserve in the northern part of the country. Without backing from the central government or support from the international agencies that withdrew aid following the coup, little to nothing has been done to stop the carnage. The impact of illegal logging of precious woods on many forest sites, including the world heritage site of Atsinanana, is devastating for biodiversity, for livelihoods and for the world, as we continue to lose the unique biodiversity of the island of Madagascar. About 52,000 tons of precious wood from 100,000 trees estimated to been cut in 2009 alone,(Science 1990) possibly covering 20,000 hectares within the parks. An additional 500,000 trees probably felled to help raft the heavy trees downstream, according to WWF illegal logging (precious woods) from Madagascar enter national markets every year. We need to both protect the unique environment for Madagascar and the critical services they provide to the majority of the population who struggle to seek out a subsistence living from the natural resources. (Global Witness June 2009) We must understand some things. At one time Madagascar was once home to giant land birds, the largest of which weighed over 1,100 pounds (500 kg) and stood ten feet (3m) tall. (Science 1990) The Elephant birds (Aepyornis) driven to extinction in the past couple of hundred years. You can still see remnants of their existence in their giant eggs, which have been reassembled and offered for sale in parts of the country. It was estimated that the 20-pound egg of Aepyornis maximus could have fed 150 people. Just think about it, if this animal had been saved. Now consider this 70% - 80% of the species and nine of the plant families in Madagascar are not founded anywhere else in the world (PFM, 2009). Scientists believe there are two main reasons for the rainforests of Madagascar obtaining an amazing biodiversity, First, Madagascar has been isolated for more than 60 million years, and second it has seven different ecoregions, ranging from tropical rainforests to deserts. These two reasons scientists have found combined to give organisms enough time and variety of habitats to adapt to give the rainforests of Madagascar its variety of plants and animals. These are some facts that we need to understand: 250,000 species are found here, of which 70% - 80% are found nowhere else in the world. Yet of the 50 different kinds of lemurs, 10 are critically endangered of being wipeout, seven are still endangered, and 19 are considered vulnerable. There are seven species of baobab trees in Madagascar compared to only one in all of Africa. The Toliara coral reef off Madagascar's southwestern coast is the third largest coral reef system in the world. The highest mountain is Maromokotro at 2876 meters.
Madagascar's plant richness is a treasure that cannot be replaced. Ten families and 260 genera of plants are endemic to Madagascar only Australia (with 13) has more endemic species of plants. 165 of Madagascar's 170 palms are not found anywhere else by comparison, mainland Africa has less than 60 species of palm. Of the eight species of baobab found in the world, six are endemic to Madagascar an entire family of plants; the Didiereaceae is unique to Madagascar. Didiereaceae plants are found in the arid southwest and closely resemble some forms of cacti. Unlike catci though, they produce small deciduous leaves that protected by menacing thorns and spines that grow directly out of the plant's many branches. 95% of the species found in the Spiny desert exist only in the habitat unique to Madagascar. Madagascar has nearly 1000 known species of orchids, of which 85% are endemic. Anti-cancer drugs (vincristine, vinblastine) derived from the Madagascar rosy periwinkle generated over a billion dollars in revenue for Eli Lilly & Co. The plant life is unique, valuable, and irreplaceable. In addition, to a unique plant biodiversity, many of Madagascar’s animals are also unique. Eighty percent of Madagascar's spiders are endemic, while 418 species and subspecies have been described on the island (379 are endemic) but around 1,000 have been recorded to date (California Academy of Science). Endangered species highly sought after in exotic pet markets include: Fanaloka, Tenrec, Fossa, Toliara, Bamboo lemur, Indri, and Aye-aye; Toliara, Radiated and spider tortoises are among only four terrestrial tortoise species found in Madagascar and their range is limited to the unique southern spiny forest. Some 7,855 living tortoises and more than 4.8 tonnes of meat were seized between 2001 and 2010. This is thought to represent around two per cent of an estimated 600,000 tortoises collected from the eco region during that period. Radiated tortoise meat is a delicacy for the Vezo and Antanosy ethnic groups in the south and people from the High Plateau around Madagascar's capital Antananarivo during special events such as Christmas, Easter and Independence Day. This does account for peaks in poaching in the weeks before these festivals start up. Lemurs vary greatly in size, appearance, and behavior from the tiny pygmy mouse lemur to the large white and black panda-looking indri. As diverse as they are, lemurs have one thing in common - they are all in some way in danger of becoming extinct. Among these lemurs is one of the planet's strangest beasts, the Aye-aye. This nocturnal and reclusive lemur looks like has it been assembled from a variety of animals. The aye-aye resembles a large house cat but with the face of a ferret or weasel, bat-like ears capable of rotating independently, teeth that grow constantly like those of a rodent, piercing green eyes, and black hands featuring a bony middle finger reminiscent of a dead twig. The indri is the largest living lemur. Black and white in color, the indri is famous for its eerie wail that sounds a bit like the song of a humpback whale. (Madagascar. Mongabay) The indri feeds on fruit and leaves in the canopy of the rainforests of eastern Madagascar, Tenrecs are unusual insectivores that have radiated into ecological niches filled in other lands by hedgehogs, mice, shrews, opossums, and even otters. While a few species of tenrec are found in central Africa, they are most diverse in Madagascar, which has around 30 species. Many zoologically primitive primates have survived and evolved into unique forms. About 40 species of lemurs are indigenous to Madagascar; Bamboo lemurs feed on bamboo they generally found in the rainforests and cloud forests of Madagascar. Several unique hedgehogs like insectivores, such as the tenrec, have evolved there, and there are many kinds of chameleons of varying size. Birds are numerous and include guinea fowl, partridges, pigeons, herons, ibis, flamingos, egrets, cuckoos, Asian robins, and several kinds of birds of prey. There are about 800 species of butterflies, many moths, and a variety of spiders. The only large or dangerous animals are the crocodiles, which occupy the rivers. The snakes, including the do, which is 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 metres) in length, are harmless. The Fossa is a carnivore that is related to a mongoose and looks like a cross between a puma and a dog. Fossas are nocturnal creatures that hunt almost any animal including insects, reptiles, rodents, and lemurs. They also prey on chickens in and around Malagasy villages; Fossas are active both in trees and on the ground. They are excellent climbers using their long tails for balance and retractable claws for climbing straight up and down tree trunks. However, local people as vermin also hunt them, The Fanaloka is a carnivore found in the rainforests of eastern Madagascar. Today these species are at high risk of becoming extinct or endangered due to habitat loss. Madagascar's towering baobab trees, spiny forests, rare primates and a rich cultural heritage form the island's distinct identity. WWF has been active here for more than 3 decades, working with local communities to protect Madagascar’s unique environment. The United Nations’ Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has placed the Atsinanana Rainforest in Madagascar on its list of World Heritage in Danger sites because of an ongoing government-influenced illegal logging crisis and continuing lemur bush meat consumption in some of the national parks that are part of the forest. UNESCO in a statement noted that despite a decree outlawing the exploitation and export of precious woods, Madagascar continues to provide export permits for illegally logged rosewood and ebony. The nature of deforestation in Madagascar has long been a question of survival. Due to the fact that survival is a basic human instinct, it is hard for the people of the Madagascar, or the government of Madagascar, to fully appreciate and understand the value of their natural resources. However, there has been some movement in the past as well as currently that indicates that the Malagasy government understands the basic value of their forest. The government has established reserves as well as passed legislation stating that organic items cannot be removed from Madagascar without permission. In addition, the government has allowed organizations such as the WWF. WWF operates two environmental education centers in Antananarivo and Fianarantsoa. According to Nat Quansah, WWF's Plants officer in Madagascar, WWF runs a program to train students and researchers, linked to the island's universities and research institutes but supplemented with highly specialized scientist from outside. One subject studied is the indigenous use of medicinal plants. This project is providing valuable information, but it also helps train local scientists, and demonstrates to the Malagasy that their environment is well worth saving. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Conservation International (CI), and WWF are among the international and national organizations supporting the government in this effort. to safeguard tens of thousands animal and plant species found nowhere else in the world. The government of Madagascar announced recently 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. These announcements came before thousands of delegates at the fifth World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa. “This is not just Madagascar's biodiversity; it is the world's biodiversity. We have the firm political will to stop this degradation. We can no longer afford to sit back and watch our forests go up in flames," said by Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana. The most important thing to do is keep the communication from all parties, including indigenous peoples, local populations, business interests, governments, scientists, and conservationists, as the key to understanding how to best approach-balancing conservation with development. The information gained from conferences can be used to help devise a plan that will be acceptable to all parties. No group should be excluded or misrepresented and every effort should be made to keep conferences open and non-threatening. Conferences should meet regularly and have some legislative muscle. Moreover, education is one of the most important ingredients in saving the rainforests. We must teach the next generation lessons that were not learned in the past: rainforests are worth saving. With this information, children will be more aware of the problems they may face in the future when they become leaders. In addition, people should be encouraged to write to government representatives and let them know how they feel about environmental issues. They should express their concern for the future of tropical rainforests. In addition, here are five things people can do to help save rainforests; 1. Don't buy products made from wildlife skins 2. Don't buy exotic pets that have been collected from the wild. You can ask pet stores whether animals are "wild-caught" or "captive bred.” "Captive-bred" animals are more friendly for the environment 3. Buy recycled paper. 4. Do not buy wood products from Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, or Africa unless you know they come from eco-friendly suppliers. A good way to know if wood is rainforest-safe is if it has a "certification label." An example of a certification label is "FSC-certified," which means the wood comes from sustainably managed forests. 5. Learn more about rainforests and the plants and animals that live in them. Tell others why rainforests are important
There are six national parks on the eastern part of the island that are important for maintaining and continuing the ecological system (2005). This ecological system is extremely important for the survival of the biodiversity within the island. The rainforests of Madagascar hold their importance for the ecological and biological processes as well as the biodiversity and the species that are threatened (2005). What individuals could do for rainforests ranges from giving money to worthy causes to devoting their entire life’s work to these problems. A variety of consumer options can help, such as using wood certified through the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Most basic for the United States, however, is cleaning up the country’s own environmental act. With the US unwilling to stop cutting the last remnants of its virgin or “old growth” forest in the Pacific Northwest and in Alaska, calls for countries like Brazil to stop deforestation are naturally viewed as hypocritical, even though the basis of the argument for ignoring any suggestions from US sources rests on a logical fallacy: argumentum ad hominem, or attacking the man instead of the argument. Even more important is the disproportionately large US contribution to global greenhouse-gas emissions and the government’s unwillingness to commit to serious reductions of emissions. Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001 was a blunder the magnitude of which any in the US seem to be blissfully unaware. Rejoining the Kyoto process and making significant cuts in emissions would help to reduce the damage that the perception of hypocrisy does to US efforts on behalf of tropical rainforests. It would also have direct benefits, since global warming is one of the major threats to rainforest in places like Amazonia. The obvious is to pick out a conservation organization and perhaps a specific project, and raise fund for a donation( the world wide fund for Nature 1996). You can visit your local zoo, garden, or aquarium to find out if they are an MFG member – if they are, there may be ongoing projects that you could get involved in, and if they are not you could encourage them to join. The MFG web site at savethelemur.org gives current news of the work of the MFG team in Madagascar. Ecotourism is a growing industry in Madagascar, but is still in its infancy. If managed properly it can have a conservation impact by passing on the direct benefits of preserved natural lands to the local people, as well as the population as a whole.
References:
http://www.africannaturalheritage.org/Rainforests-Of-The-Atsinanana-Madagascar.html
Madagascar. Crowley BE, Godfrey LR, Irwin MT, American Journal Of Primatology [Am J Primatol], ISSN: 1098-2345, 2011 Jan; Vol. 73
THE AUTHORS. J . EVOL. BI O L . 22 ( 2 0 0 9 ) 1376–1386 JOURNAL COMP ILAT ION a 2009 EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR EVOLUT IONARY BI OLOGY]
A. E. DUNHAM & V. H. W. RUDOLF Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA
Wild Madagascar http://www.wildmadagascar.org/conservation/threats.html
Monga bay http://www.rainforestportal.org/issues/2010/03/victory_madagascar_reinstates.asp
History http://www.history.com/topics/madagascar
Madagascars-rainforests http://www.wwf.mg/?201849/A-day-of-hope-for-Madagascars-rainforests
Central Intelligence Agency The World FactBook https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ma.html http://www1.american.edu/ted/MADAGAS.HTM http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2217

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