A little while back I posted about the Aceh Protected Forest, a national park in peril and some ways that it might be improved. But there are still a lot of parks in peril out there, one that especially comes to mind is Masoala National Park in Madagascar. Madagascar has lost 85% of it’s forest to slash and burn farming, but it’s also one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. How can we keep the lemurs leaping through the quickly falling forests of Madagascar? Well I guess you’ll just have to keep reading…
Masoala National Park
Primate Species in Masoala:
In a study done from 1994-1995 there were 10 primate species found. Since that study there have been several newly discovered species, but no new study of primate species has been done in Masoala National Park. There were, at the time, ten documented species including Varecia variegata rubra (red ruffed lemur), Eulemur fulvus albifrons (white-headed lemur), Hapalemur griseus griseus (eastern lesser bamboo lemur), Lepilemur mustelinus (weasel sportive lemur), Avahi laniger laniger (eastern woolly lemur), Cheirogaleus rufus (no longer considered a single species, now broken up into four species of dwarf lemur), Daubentonia madagascariensis (aye-aye), Allocebus trichotis (hairy-eared dwarf lemur), Propithecus candidus (silky sifaka) and Phaner furcifer (Masoala fork-marked lemur).
A Description of Masoala:
Masoala National Park contains about 50% of the species biodiversity found on the island country of Madagascar. 60% of the 120 species of birds are endemic to the national park. Masoala is made up of 240,520 hectares which covers both protected terrestrial land as well as protected marine sites. In 2007 it was listed as a world heritage site and is made up of tropical rain forest and also contains a mountain range running north south that reaches elevations of 1,100 meters.
A Description of the Economic Status of Madagascar:
Madagascar has a population of 21.9 million people and the majority of the population lives in abject poverty. Madagascar has a $20.4 GDP with it’s main exports being coffee, vanilla, shellfish, sugar, cotton, minerals and gemstones. However it is believed that most of the gemstones exported are exported illegally. Many of the native peoples still farm using antiquated techniques, mainly which includes slash and burn farming. This kind of farming is destroying the rainforest at an alarming rate.
Slash and Burn Farming in Madagascar:
Slash and burn farming is by far the most prominent form of agriculture across the island countryo of Madagascar. Over the last few hundred years slash and burn farming has destroyed all but 15% of the forests. Masoala is the largest intact tract of rainforest left in the entire country and is home to several species of primate that are found no where else in the world except within the protected boundaries of the park.
Because many of the people living in Madagascar live in poverty they often would rather risk breaking the law and farm on protected lad then let their families starve. Education is also a large problem as there are many people who will live their entire lives in Madagascar and never see a lemur or primate.
Other Threats to Primates in Masoala:
The aye-aye is thought to be a demon and is often killed for spiritual purposes, which has led to a large decline in their population. They are thought to bring misfortunes so natives will often kill any that come across their path.
There are very few species on the island of Madagascar that are not endemic species, and with the country being an island there is no way for primates that live there to expand their range much beyond what it is.
There are many new introduced species like dogs and cats that will hunt smaller primates. There were very few mammalian predators naturally occurring in Madagascar. When people began to immigrate to Madagascar they brought domestic animals as well as foreign pest animals which have slowly been taking over the environment and destroying the ecosystem.
Lastly the pet trade is alive and well in Madagascar as the demand for pet lemurs explodes. Loggers will often trap and sell different species to generate extra income.
Proposed Conservation Tactics to Implement in Masoala:
Madagascar’s forest are being decimated by slash and burn farming that has not been regulated for decades. Since Masoala is the largest intact piece of forest left in Madagascar it’s borders should be highly protected. Madagascar boasts a large number of endemic species and is a highly sought after tourism destination. The problem with the tourism industry in Madagascar is that it is not well funded. Many of the trails and tours within the parks are mismanaged and there are few hotels, most of which are not luxury. If Madagascar were to put more money into becoming a tourist friendly destination then many of the people who make money farming could instead enter the hospitality business. If care was taken to not clear any additional habitat to erect foreigner-friendly hotels then the revenue brought in could help fund anti-poaching patrols to place in the parks that could also monitor tourists who might feed or otherwise disturb the primates. Luxury camping trips and wildlife expeditions can be quite lucrative without relying on large numbers of tourists at once. If planned correctly this could bring in over $US1 million per national park in Madagascar.
Several of the same tactics to combat logging and deforestation, like stipends for keeping forests intact, Conservation Drones, that are mentioned above for the Aceh Protected Forest could be used in the case of Masoala. Things that make illegal deforestation a high risk, small reward and provide an alternative source of income are the best tactics to apply to a country as poor and under-developed as Madagascar.