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.
The newly protected area also holds vitally important populations of other threatened species like the Critically Endangered lemur, Crowned Sifaka Propithecus (verreauxi) coronatus, and the Madagascar Big-headed Turtle Erymnochelys madagascariensis.
The area’s protection is part of President Marc Ravalomanana’s ‘Durban Vision’, whereby Madagascar will increase its total protected areas to six million hectares by 2008. 
“This is a particularly important milestone for conservation in Madagascar..." —Vony Raminoarisoa, Director of BirdLife International Madagascar Programme
The news represents a significant milestone for BirdLife International, who have been working with the Madagascar Government and with local communities, promoting efforts to manage the Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands in a sustainable manner whilst monitoring and conserving biodiversity. “It’s a fantastic achievement for all involved.” said Mr Rivo Rabarisoa, Site Conservation Programmes Manager, BirdLife International Madagascar Programme. “This decision is supported by conservationists worldwide, by local communities within the protected area and across the main Ministries in Madagascar who are concerned with the sectoral interests of wetlands (including agriculture, fisheries and extractive industries). We hope this achievement can be replicated elsewhere.”
The Mahavavy-Kinkony Wetlands are a vital resource to the Malagasy people for fishing, hunting and agriculture.
BirdLife has been working in Madagascar since 1997, and on conservation of this site since 2003, investigating and encouraging practices that allow the wetlands to be managed in a sustainable manner, to the benefit of people and wildlife.  
“This protected area isn’t just good news for the wildlife; it’s a step forward for people and livelihoods.” —Roger Safford, Programme & Projects Manager, BirdLife International
“This protected area isn’t just good news for the wildlife; it’s a step forward for people and livelihoods.” said Roger Safford, Programme & Projects Manager, BirdLife International. “The Government of Madagascar is setting an example to the world in asserting and making sustainable the real economic benefits for people and communities in protecting such biodiverse and productive regions as these wetlands.”
BirdLife were coordinators of the process leading to the region’s declaration and compiled the necessary information required for the declaration to move forward.
"We are delighted that such a large and well-known area can be offered full protection, whilst still retaining its vital use as a wetland resource for local people and communities." commented Dr Ramanitra Narisoa, President of Asity, the only Malagasy bird conservation NGO, which was also a strong contributor to the process. "This is fantastic news for conservation in Madagascar."
For further details, hi-res images or to arrange an interview:
Jules Howard, BirdLife International, Communications Officer. Tel: +44 (0)1223 279809, Mobile: +44 (0) 7971069098 Email: email@example.com
- BirdLife International is a global alliance of conservation organisations working in more than 100 countries who, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting them.
- Globally Threatened Birds found in the Mahavany-Kinkony Wetlands: Madagascar Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vociferoides, Sakalava Rail Amaurornis olivieri, Madagascar Teal Anas bernieri, Madagascar Sacred Ibis Threskiornis bernieri, Madagascar Grebe Tachybaptus pelzelnii, Madagascar Heron Ardea humbloti, Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus, Madagascar Pratincole Glareola ocularis, Madagascar Pond Heron Ardeola idae.
- For more information on the bird species mentioned in this press release, please visit BirdLife’s data-zone: www.birdlife.org/datazone
- The ‘Durban Vision’ was announced by President Marc Ravalomanana, at the World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa in 2003. His announcement specified that Madagascar would expand their total area under protection from 1.7 million hectares to 6 million hectares by 2008.
- BirdLife has worked closely with, among others, the General Directorate of Water and Forests within the Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests (MinEnvEF), the National Association for Protected Areas Management (ANGAP), the Malagasy NGO Asity and Conservation International.
- Funding for the Mahavany-Kinkony Wetlands Conservation Programme has come from the British Birdwatching Fair, Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund, Department for International Development, Tubney’s Charitable Trust and Conservation International’s Madagascar Centre for Biodiversity Conservation.
British Birdwatching Fair