MADAGASCAR FOREST

Project Goal 

Investigation of threatened forests in Madagascar, with the aim of improving understanding of the 
conservation status of important species and the scale and distribution of threats to their survival. 
Working alongside local communities to improve the way land is managed outside the boundaries of 
protected areas.

Project location

Ambalahonko, Nosy Be Island, northwest Madagascar

Activities

Long-term assessments of the effects of forest fragmentation on vertebrate populations; 

Habitat mapping, to ground-truth remote sensing data and generate an accurate, up-to-date      
   landcover map for Nosy Be Island;
Assessment of current rates of habitat loss (based on new and past landcover maps);
Population distribution modelling, focussing on Nosy Be’s lemur species, including assessments of 
   the efficacy of remote sensing models in predicting actual distribution of key species;
Studies into the status and functionality of provisional buffer zones around the Lokobe reserve; 
Baseline biodiversity surveys of taxa on which insufficient information exists for Nosy Be, 
   including bats;
Capacity building in local communities, to improve management of natural resources.

Background
 

Madagascar is an island nation situated in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Mozambique in southeast 
Africa. With a total land area of 581,540 km2, it is the fourth largest island in the world and home to a population of over 21 million people. Madagascar was part of the French Colonial Empire from 1890 
until it became a republic in 1960, and French remains one of the country’s official languages.

As a result of Madagascar’s long isolation from continental Africa, the country is home to many plant 
and animal species that are not found anywhere else in the world. In fact, around 75% of the country’s
fauna is endemic. However, it is one of the most threatened ecosystems on earth and more than 80% 
of its forests have already been lost, along with some important elements of its biodiversity. Threats 
come in many forms, including slash and burn agriculture, big industry (especially mining), uncontrolled
burning, soil erosion and illegal hunting. A large proportion of Madagascar’s population is reliant on 
forest resources, meaning that over-extraction threatens human subsistence as well as the longevity 
of the country’s incredible biodiversity. The country’s ecotourism industry has seen growth, largely as 
a result of increasing interest in its unique flora and fauna, but this has been somewhat disrupted in 
recent years by political unrest. Ecotourism depends on viable, healthy ecosystems and 
wildlife populations.

SEE has been working in Madagascar’s forests since 2002, and has covered a number of important 
areas including the Mikea Forest in the southwest and three sites in the north: the Montagne de 
Francaise, the Bobaomby region and Tsarakibany. The latter is an important habitat corridor between 
the Montagne d’Ambre National Park and the Ankarana Special Reserve but is under intense pressure 
from local communities and now exists only as small fragments of forest. In March 2011 SEE’s project 
moved to Nosy Be, which is the largest offshore island of Madagascar and is of a similar ecoregion to 
the country’s eastern rainforests. Nosy Be has one protected area, Lokobe, to which the Madagascar 
National Parks authority (MNP) intends to add a marine zone. MNP also plans to change Lokobe’s 
designation from strict nature reserve to national park, which would allow development for tourism. 
There are also plans to transfer control of habitat immediately adjacent to the reserve from state to
community managers. SEE’s base is adjacent to Lokobe and our project aims to determine the health 
and distribution of local forests and biodiversity, and the feasibility of establishing a buffer zone around 
the reserve. We are also working to build the capacity of local ‘conservation councils’ to monitor and 
manage the natural resources that will shortly be transferred into their control.

Some of SEE’s past achievements in Madagascar

Discovery of three living specimens of the Madagascan burrowing snake in Tsarakibani in northern

   Madagascar, which represent only the 7th, 8th and 9th confirmed sightings of this species since its
   discovery more than 100 years ago;
Discovery of a new species of snake in western Madagascar;
Range extensions for several species of reptile, including a skink (Amphiglossus tanysoma);
Rediscovery of a subspecies of the narrow-striped mongoose in southwest Madagascar, which was
   previously known only from museum records.




Project partners & staff 

SEE’s partners in Madagascar include:
 
the University of Antsiranana 
the Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests (Government of Madagascar)
the South West Regional Environment Authority (SAGE)

SEE’s Madagascar Forest field team is comprised of a Country Coordinator, a Principal Investigator, 
several Research Officers and a team of voluntary Research Assistants.