Madagascar Pochard Aythya innotata. A critically engangered species.
Since the colonial period, administrative, legal and technical measures have been developed and implemented to control the degradation and destruction of habitats in order to preserve biological diversity in Madagascar. These measures have included the development of a national protected area system. There are seven categories of protected area: Strict Nature Reserve; Special Reserve; National Park; Hunting Reserve; Classified Forest; Reforestation or Restoration area; and Forestry Station.
Over the last decade, the environmental sector has grown steadily in importance and has gained recognition within the country despite socio-economic and political uncertainty.
The inventory of Important Bird Areas (see IBA section) is the result of a 29 month collaboration between the National Association for the Management of Protected Areas, the Ministry of Water and Forests, and BirdLife International. This collaboration, known as the ZICOMA Project is intended to highlight those sites for which action is urgently required in order to conserve the remarkable and endemic bird fauna of Madagascar.
In common with many other countries in Africa, Madagascar has a number of environmental issues which include soil erosion resulting from deforestation and overgrazing; desertification; and surface water contaminated with raw sewage and other organic wastes.
Madagascar is party to many international environmental treaties: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands.
The African Bird Club made an award in 2004 for a study of the conservation biology of the endangered Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus with a view to increasing public awareness.
2nd May 2008: Madagascar Pond-heron thrown a lifeline...
The Endangered Madagascar Pond-heron Ardeola idae has received much-needed attention from all its range states. Delegates from nine African countries recently came together in Nairobi (Kenya) to develop a Species Action Plan to reverse the heron’s alarming population decline. The species was considered to be common half a century ago. It is now listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
The Madagascar Pond-heron breeds in Madagascar, Aldabra, Europa and Mayotte - all Western Indian Ocean Islands. Outside the breeding season it migrates to mainland Africa, where it frequents small, tree-lined freshwater pools. The estimated world population of less than 6,000 birds is spread over an area of 2 million square kilometers. There are now indications that if action is not taken soon, the species may be on a fast track to extinction.
“The number of breeding herons at one site declined from 232 birds in 2007, to none in 2008”, said Julien Ramanampamonjy, a founder member of ASITY Madagascar - an NGO dedicated to protecting Madagascar’s birds. In response, delegates attending the Nairobi workshop developed a Species Action Plan to help save the heron. In his opening remarks to the workshop, Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson (Africa Regional Director of BirdLife International) emphasised the need for not only an action plan, but also for concerted effort to implement any recommendations. “Since the Species Action Plan looks at threats and identifies priorities, it is a useful tool for advocating action to save the species”, he said.
Participants made several recommendations for action to enhance the Madagascar Pond-heron's survival. Key recommended actions include the gathering of further information on the species’s occurrence and ecology, raising its profile and protecting breeding sites.
Source: BirdLife International
23rd February 2008: In Madagascar, Pioneering a New Model for Conservation
An innovative project in Madagascar pioneered a new model for managing the country’s wetlands while also supporting the communities that depend upon these ecosystems for their livelihood. With support from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, BirdLife International engaged local community associations and industrial food producers in protecting the Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands Complex.
The organisation also worked with government officials and representatives from local communities to establish a collaborative structure for managing the area.
In January 2007, protection for the area was assured when the government of Madagascar included the wetlands in the declaration of an additional 1 million hectares of new protected areas in the island nation. It is the largest wetlands area to be added to the country’s growing roster of protected areas.
The 268,236-hectare complex in the Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands Hotspot includes lakes, rivers, marshes, shorelines, and mangroves. It is home to 12 globally threatened species of birds, reptiles, and fish. The threatened birds include endangered Madagascar Teals Anas bernieri, Madagascar Sacred Ibises Threskiornis bernieri and Sakalava Rails Amaurornis olivieri.
There is a “very high level of threat to many species, as the habitats are under so many pressures,” said Roger Safford, program and projects manager for BirdLife International.
Previously, Madagascar’s protected areas did not lend themselves to protecting a large wetlands complex inhabited by a large human population, Safford explained. BirdLife International was one of the many organisations that helped the country’s government create the new approach. The new model incorporates mechanisms for monitoring and conserving biological resources, as well as enabling local communities to participate in and ultimately, directly manage these efforts.
10th May 2007: Madagascar Expands Network of Protected Areas
Lush tropical rain forest, limestone caves, lakes, and rivers are some of the diverse ecosystems recently granted protection by the Madagascar government. The 15 new protected areas cover more than 2.4 million acres of land and are dispersed across the nation.
The largest portions of newly protected territory include 1.2 million acres of dense forest in the southeast, 684,000 acres of forests and lakes in a wetland complex on the northwest coast, and mangroves and lakes in the Menabe Central Forest. Smaller tracts on the borders of existing protected areas are designed to enhance corridors that will give wildlife space to roam and help prevent the extinction of endemic species.
Conservation of these regions will provide shelter to a number of threatened species, such as the Madagascar flat-shelled tortoise Pyxis planicauda, the ten-striped mongoose Mungotictis decemlineata and the Madagascar Sacred Ibis Threkiornis bernieri. One of the world’s most threatened primates, the greater bamboo lemur Prolemur simus, survives only in the southeastern forests that are now under protection.
Benefits from these protected areas are equally significant for people, as they preserve the forests and watersheds that are crucial to local communities.
“Anyone who says conservation and development cannot work hand-in-hand is wrong,” says Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana. “It is important to stress the positive impact biodiversity conservation has on economic development and quality of life.”
In the past two years, President Ravalomanana has safeguarded nearly 5 million acres of land, bringing the country’s total area protected to more than 9 million acres and fulfilling part of his pledge to protect 10 percent of Madagascar’s territory by 2008.
22nd January 2007: Madagascar protects wetlands crucial for people and birds
One of Madagascar’s most spectacular wildlife areas - almost 3,000 km2 of tropical wetlands, forests, savannas and caves - is to be protected by law. “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.” said Vony Raminoarisoa, Director of BirdLife International Madagascar Programme.
The Government of Madagascar granted the area a protected status for two years; a preliminary step toward the area being granted permanent protection. Another wetland, Lake Alaotra in eastern Madagascar, was also granted similar protection.
The decree came into effect this week.
The Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands hold all of the wetland bird species found in Western Madagascar, many of which are found nowhere else on Earth. They represent key habitats for Madagascar Teal, Sakalava Rail, Madagascar Sacred Ibis and Madagascar Pond Heron. 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.
In 1999 the wetland was declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International, on account of the diverse array of threatened birds found there.
Source: BirdLife International
20th November 2006: Diving duck resurfaces...
Biologists from Madagascar have recently discovered the Madagascar Pochard Aythya innotata, a species that was considered extinct by many authorities. National Director for The Peregrine Fund’s Madagascar Project & former ABC representative, Lily-Arison Rene de Roland, and field biologist, Thé Seing Sam, discovered the rare bird while conducting avian surveys in a remote part of northern Madagascar. They observed nine adults and four young that appeared to be nearly two weeks of age. Since their initial sighting, Rene de Roland and Sam have returned to the site to collect additional data and observations.
The Madagascar Pochard is one of the country’s rarest and most endangered birds. The last confirmed sighting of the species was more than a decade and a half ago at Lake Alaotra on the Central Plateau of Madagascar in 1991. The single male was captured and kept in Antananarivo Zoological and Botanical Gardens until its death one year later.
Decline of the Madagascar Pochard is likely to have begun in the 1940s and 1950s in connection with degrading lake and marshland habitat from introduced plant and fish species, conversion to rice paddies, and burning. The last certain record of multiple birds (approximately 20) on Lake Alaotra is from June 1960. Little is known about the Madagascar Pochard, an extremely secretive and often solitary bird that prefers shallow and marshy habitat. Found only on Madagascar, most of the species’ behavior and life cycle is still unknown.
Source: BirdLife International
22nd March 2006: Madagascar expands protected areas under visionary conservation policy - commitment to natural assets.
A pioneering government plan to protect much of Madagascar’s remaining forests has expanded by another 1 million hectares (2.47 million acres or 3,862 square miles), providing new hope that highly threatened species such as black-and-white ruffed lemurs, golden-crowned sifakas and Madagascar Serpent Eagles can avoid extinction.
President Marc Ravalomanana’s government increased the island-nation’s protected territory by a combined area larger than Cyprus at the end of 2005. The latest expansion, under the leadership of Minister for the Environment Hon. Gen. Sylvain Rabotoarison, keeps Madagascar on track to fulfill President Ravalomanana’s 2003 pledge to triple his nation’s total protected areas to 6 million hectares (14.82 million acres or 23,000 square miles) by 2008.
“It is important to stress the positive impact biodiversity conservation has on economic development,” President Ravalomanana said. “It is essential to use nature conservation to generate a great sense of pride among the population of Madagascar for our unique biodiversity.”
Source: Conservation International
31st January 2006: Madagascar's protected area network grows by 1 Million hectares in 2005.
The Malagasy Minister of Environment, Water, and Forests officially created three new protected areas on Dec.30, 2005, bringing a further 875,000 hectares of unique natural habitat under protection and helping the thousands of local people who live in and around them in the Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands Hotspot to plan for a sustainable future.
Makira in the north-east of the island, the Ankeniheny-Zahamena corridor in the east, and Anjozorobe in the central province of Antananarivo are home to some of the island’s most threatened species of fauna and flora, including populations of many of Madagascar’s endangered lemurs such as the Indri (Indri indri) and the black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata variegata).
Together, these areas have helped the Malagasy government reach its 2005 target of 1 million hectares of new protected area, which is itself an important milestone on the way to fulfilling President Marc Ravalomanana's pledge of bringing 10 percent of the country under protected area management by 2008.