In 1927 the French colonial government introduced the first protections for natural sites to Madagascar, an island nation off of the southern coast of the African continent. The original sites were meant for conducting scientific research. Over the years Madagascar’s government has followed the example of its predecessor and has reserved more sites and parks. Masoala is the largest at 2,405 square kilometers, while the oldest, including Lokobe, were formed under French Colonial rule.
Madagascar's National Parks, Reserves, And Protected Areas
Ambatovaky Reserve, which was established in 1958, houses the second largest protected rainforest area in Madagascar, after that in Masoala. This largest of Madagascar’s special reserves is located in the Eastern part of the country. 75% of the 291 species found in Ambatovaky are endemic. There are 11 lemur species, 110 bird species, 113 amphibian species, and 34 fish species. The park spans 148,387 acres, all virgin low altitude rainforest, between the Marimbona and Simianona Rivers. The landscape is hilly, with some hills reaching a height of 1,000 meters. Waterfalls flow out of the sides of the steep walls of the gorges and valleys. The Ambatovaky’s ecosystem faces the threat of human encroachment. People living near the park need more space for their cattle, and for growing rice. With the human population increasing at a alarming rate, many people are forced to find alternative ways of earning a living for instance by cutting down trees in the rainforest for wood, or poaching endangered species inside the park.
Amber Mountain National Park
Amber Mountain Park is a high altitude rainforest located in the northern tip of Madagascar, 30 kilometers south of Antsiranana City. The park, which was established in 1958, is surrounded by hot plains. Waterfalls and streams flow down the slopes of the mountain, flowing into the five lakes, providing water for Antsiranana City. Spanning 44,973 acres, the park is home to endemic flora and fauna including 25 mammal species, 75 bird species, 60 reptiles, and 40 butterflies. It consists of three ecosystems the montane rainforest, the mid-altitude rainforest, and the dry deciduous forest. These ecosystems are home to more than a thousand different plants. It is hot with occasional rainfall between September and November. December to March is the Cyclone season.
Ambohijanary Reserve is found in the western part of the country near the Bongolava Mountains. The reserve, which was established in 1958, spans 61,159 acres. It is home to the last remaining dense sclerophyllous forests. It is subject to extreme climate changes such as hot, rainy seasons or long dry seasons. Several ecosystems exist side by side, including water areas, bamboo stands, gramineous savanna, sclerophyllous forests, and rocky landscapes. It is the habitat for 78 mammal species, 57 bird species, 21 reptile species, and nine amphibian species. The native community, the Sarakala, are cattle herders. They often burn the savanna to provide fresh grass for their cattle after the grass grows again, which is a threat to the ecosystem.
At 13,838 acres, Ambohitantely Reserve, which was established in 1982, consists of several areas covered with primary rainforests and grassland fields with gramineous vegetation. There are 70 bird species, 17 mammals, 17 reptiles, and 17 amphibians. The reserve is rich in flora as well, with 40 different orchids, and several endemic palm trees. It is threatened by the native residents of the area, who plant rice. They follow the custom of “slash and burn,” which is harmful to the plant and animal life, and ultimately threatens the ecosystem.
Preserving Madagascar's Natural Beauty
Madagascar is extraordinarily well endowed in terms of its biodiversity. Madagascar is home to many endemic species, a fact that has made it a high priority to the international community in matters concerning the conservation and protection of endangered species. Numerous agencies are assisting the country to help it protect its natural sites from environmental threats.