22 Jan 2007

Madagascar protects wetlands crucial for people and birds

Lake Kinkony, fisherman on his pirogue at sunrise. Photo by: Paolo Volponi
By BirdLife

One of Madagascar’s most spectacular wildlife areas - almost 3,000 kmof 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.


“This is a particularly important milestone for conservation in Madagascar..." —Vony Raminoarisoa, , Director of BirdLife International Madagascar Programme

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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.

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.

“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

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.” 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."