Recently in Madagascar Category

Rampant Rosewood Logging

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Of the many threats encountered by the world's islands, commercial logging is one of the most severe, rapidly decimating forests and the many species they harbor. While the clear-cutting style of logging (in which all trees in an area are uniformly cut down) may be the most infamous, even selective logging (or removing only certain species) can be a death knell in some regions. One of these is the island of Madagascar, where logging of rosewood trees has become a national crisis. 



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Above, a forest in Northeastern Madagascar containing rosewood trees. 

Update on Seacology Prize Winners

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Each year, Seacology honors an indigenous island conservationist who has dedicated his or her life to safeguarding their island home. For many of our recipients, the journey to our California ceremony honoring their work is the experience of a lifetime. Returning to their native country with $10,000 in prize money, our Seacology Prize recipients continue to achieve major progress in conservation. Below are updates on recent Seacology Prize recipients:

Last Thursday, October 7, over 100 Seacology supporters joined board members and staff at the David Brower Center in Downtown Berkeley to honor Rabary Desiré of Madagascar, the 2010 recipient of the Seacology Prize. The Seacology Prize honors indigenous islanders who have dedicated their lives to preserving their environment.  At the ceremony, Desiré described his journey as a leading Malagsy environmentalist.  A self-taught expert in Madagascar's unique wildlife, Desiré shared the vocalizations of the endangered silky sifaka lemur. (If you missed the ceremony, you can hear them yourself in this video.)

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Photo Credit: Susan Racanelli, Seacology

Madagascar's Silky Sifakas

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Worldwide, islands harbor some of our planet's most rare and fascinating species. The island of Madagascar, located off the eastern coast of Africa, is no exception. With abundant biodiversity, the island provides a home to 8 plant families, 4 bird families, and 5 primate families that are endemic, or found nowhere else on earth. One of Madagascar's most famed endemic species is the lemur, a small primate found in the island's forests.

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Madagascar Delights

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Royal Palace in TanaWow. The hype is not hype; Madagascar delivers on its promise of exotic animals, dramatic landscapes, rare botany and friendly people. This island lost in time keeps alive the dream of a faraway land with mystical creatures and magical landscapes.

Seacology's 15 person expedition began with a brief stint in the capital of Antananarivo ("Tana"), and the architecture did not disappoint. A bustling city of nearly two million people, its history is rich with dynasties boasting some of the longest names in the world. To the left is King Andrianampoinmerina's palace which sits on the highest of the capital's 12 hills, standing as a sentinel overlooking the city.

Madagascar Pitcher Plant We flew to the extreme south of the island to begin our trek to the project site, a Seacology supported nursery for rare and endangered plants at Ft. Dauphin. Riding for hours over seriously rugged roads, we shared the terrain with a constant chain of Malagasy people traveling on foot -- generally barefoot -- carrying their impossibly heavy wares from market to home and back. The indigenous plant nursery was thriving and we spotted a grove of Madagascar's unusual pitcher plants (right) and a small stand of critically endangered water palms along the way; only four remain in their original habitat.

Map of Madagascar.gifDuane, our executive director, and I will be taking a group of donors on a Seacology expedition to Madagascar in a couple of weeks. We're going to check in on three of our conservation projects: two in the central highlands and one in the far south. We're only there for one week, but it will be a week of wild travel from the High Plateau to the East to the Southern Dry Forest (see map at right). We'll visit two preserves, an orchid mountain and several villages that are safeguarding the Madagascar flying fox.

Map of Africa highlighting Madagascar.jpgMadagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, and I imagine it seems like a small continent when you're on it. To put it in perspective, if you've ever been to England, it doesn't really seem like an island when you visit. It feels like another charming European country, and the distances between its cities are long. Well, England is 95,000 square miles in total compared to Madagascar's 227,000 square miles, or roughly two and a half times the size of England.

An integral final step to many of Seacology's projects is for the island villages to erect a sign.  This is a lovely acknowledgment of Seacology's partnership with island communities, but it also is a symbol of one of Seacology's most important philosophies.  I cannot possibly articulate it as well as Dr. John McCosker, senior scientist for the California Academy of Sciences:

"Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, Seacology gets more output than any conservation group that I've seen. They're not giving money away, they're not making grants, they're making deals."

These signs act as an important reminder to the communities that the needed infrastructure we provide is not a handout; it is part of a trade-off in recognition of a commitment to conservation of their precious natural resources.

I thought I'd post photos of some of these signs.

madagascar_mangoro_sign.jpgThe sign at left is on one of 11 schools in Madagascar's Mangoro region that received Seacology-funded repairs in exchange for community agreements to protect the last remaining habitat of the Mangoro Flying Fox.  Due to hunting for bushmeat, uncontrolled fires and logging, just a few pockets of forest remain as roosts for these large bats. 

Seacology is also funding repairs to local municipal offices, and an educational component, with a conservation art competition scheduled to begin in early 2008.  The winning artists will be awarded by members of the Seacology 2008 expedition to Madagascar and South Africa.  Information on this trip can be found here.  Click here for more information regarding the Mangoro project.