Madagascar still has time if leaders act fast

Andry Rajoelina won the presidency of Madagascar last year on promises to curb corruption, improve the economy and protect the African island’s precious but embattled natural resources.

Now scientists are taking action to make sure he lives up to his promises.

Scientists from Madagascar, Australia, Britain, Finland and the United States recently published a paper in the journal Nature recommending a new plan to save the island’s ecology.

“The United States have the Statue of Liberty, France has the Eifel tower,” said Jonah Ratsimbazafy, a conservationist and primate expert at the University of Antananarivo. “For us in Madagascar it is our biodiversity, the product of millions of years of evolution, which is the unique heritage we are known for around the world. We cannot let these natural wonders, including 100 different types of lemur found nowhere else, disappear.”

The paper lists rosewood trafficking, illegal mining and prohibited trade in tortoises and other rare species like as among the predation occurring regularly.

The researchers called on the new president to invest in protecting wilderness, expanding local authority over natural resources, limiting the impact of new infrastructure on the ecosystem, tackling corruption that permits environmental crime and launching a major restoration effort as citizens cut down more trees to use as firewood.

“The time has come for action,” said Ratsimbazafy. “It’s not too late to turn things around in Madagascar, but it soon will be.”

Image credit: Valerian Guillot via Flickr

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