The second time couldn’t be worse than the first (insider) [12/07/2018]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler writes about his difficult first trip to Madagascar, which eventually inspired the name “Mongabay” and prompted him to start WildMadagascar.org, which showcases the biological and cultural diversity of the island nation.
- On his first night in Madagascar, Rhett was robbed of all his possessions, the first of several unfortunate events that would not diminish his love of the country.
- This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
The river of blood (insider) [11/28/2018]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler’s account of his trip down the Manambolo River in Western Madagascar where he was nearly attacked by bandits.
- This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
A lucky child: Mongabay’s origin story (insider) [11/14/2018]
- Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler tells the origin story of Mongabay.
- Inspired by his love for nature and motivated by real-world losses, the groundwork for Mongabay was laid at a very early age.
- Rhett launched Mongabay in his early 20s to raise interest in the natural world and awareness about what is happening in wild places like tropical rainforests.
- This post is insider content, which is available to paying subscribers.
Local fishers oppose $2.7 billion deal opening Madagascar to Chinese fishing [11/05/2018]
- Two months ago, a little-known private Malagasy association signed a 10-year, $2.7 billion fishing deal — the largest in the country’s history — with a group of Chinese companies that plans to send 330 fishing vessels to Madagascar.
- Critics of the deal include the country’s fisheries minister, who said he learned about it in the newspaper; environmental and government watchdog groups; and local fishers, who are already struggling with foreign competition for Madagascar’s dwindling marine stocks.
- Critics say no draft of the deal has been made public and the association that signed it did not conduct an environmental impact assessment or any public consultation.
- The issue has drawn media attention in the run-up to the presidential election on Wednesday. The incumbent and a leading candidate, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, was present at the fisheries deal’s signing, although he later claimed not to be familiar with it.
Thousands of radiated tortoises seized from traffickers in Madagascar [10/31/2018]
- More than 7,000 critically endangered radiated tortoises were confiscated by authorities from suspected wildlife traffickers in Madagascar on Oct. 24.
- The seizure happened in the same area where a similar bust, involving nearly 10,000 tortoises of the same species, took place in April.
- The NGO Turtle Survival Alliance is working with the Madagascar environment ministry to care for the surviving tortoises.
In Bali and beyond: An urgent focus on coral conservation (commentary) [10/29/2018]
- Millions of people depend on coral for their nutritional health and well-being.
- But we are damaging coral reefs today: with sediment that flows from rivers, caused by development and deforestation on land; with overfishing that upsets the delicate balance of species on reef; with chemicals, like cyanide, that are used to catch fish when there are few left to catch; with the rise in temperature caused by our continued dependence on fossil fuels.
- There is reason for hope, though. Some coral reefs around the world are stronger, more flexible, and more resilient than others to changes and threats in their environment. These reefs need to be protected.
- This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.
CITES rejects another Madagascar plan to sell illegal rosewood stockpiles [10/24/2018]
- At a meeting in Sochi, Russia, earlier this month, CITES’s standing committee rejected Madagascar’s latest plan to sell off its stockpiles of illegally harvested rosewood, largely because the plan called for local timber barons to be paid for their troves of wood.
- Environmental groups argued that operators who logged illegally should not be rewarded for it, and delegations from several African countries reportedly opposed the plan because they feared their own timber barons would learn the wrong lesson from the deal.
- Madagascar’s environment ministry released a statement after the meeting indicating that it would take the recommendations made by the CITES committee into account in revising the plan for submission again in 2019.
Top Madagascar shrimp co. moved millions among tax-haven shell companies [10/11/2018]
- Aziz Ismail, 85, a French citizen born in Madagascar, bought into Madagascar’s shrimp business in 1973. His empire, known generally as Unima, now includes at least eight privately held companies in Europe and Africa that are mainly involved in seafood from Madagascar, where operations are centered.
- Ismail has also owned a British Virgin Islands-based shell company called Ergia Limited since 2000. In the last decade, Ergia appears to have had financial transactions totaling several million dollars with another apparent shell company in Mauritius that has close ties to Unima, and with Unima companies in Europe.
- Although owning and using offshore companies is generally legal, tax and law enforcement officials are increasingly scrutinizing transactions through tax havens like the British Virgin Islands and Mauritius. Tax inspectors from Madagascar and other experts said Unima’s use of multiple offshore companies raises the risk of lost taxes for one of the world’s poorest countries.
- Files obtained from the now-defunct Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca as part of the “Panama Papers” were the basis for this investigation by Mongabay and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
Humans reached Madagascar 6,000 years earlier than previously thought [09/12/2018]
- New research suggests humans reached Madagascar far earlier than previously thought.
- The study, published today in the journal Science Advances, is based on analysis of giant elephant bird bones discovered in 2009.
- Those bones showed “chop marks, cut marks, and depression fractures consistent with immobilization and dismemberment” by prehistoric humans.
- Until now, the earliest documented evidence of humans in Madagascar dated to 2,400-4,000 years ago.
Madagascar: Where young whale sharks party [08/31/2018]
- Whale sharks don’t need help being spectacular. The world’s biggest fish is impressive in nearly every aspect, growing as long as 12 meters (40 feet) and weighing up to 21 tons.
- A new study in the journal Endangered Species Research used photo-identification techniques based on the sharks’ distinctive spots to discover a new hotspot for juvenile whale sharks around the tiny island of Nosy Be, in northwest Madagascar.
- This is a rare bit of good news for a species that, like many other sharks, is struggling to survive in oceans increasingly subject to the negative impacts of human activity.
Bandits raid village near Madagascar park, killing conservation worker [08/27/2018]
- Armed bandits attacked a village on the edge of Ranomafana National Park in southeastern Madagascar in late July.
- They robbed residents and killed a technician for the Centre ValBio research institute.
- The incident is part of a growing pattern of banditry, both in the Ranomafana area and across Madagascar, where instability has increased in the run up to presidential elections scheduled for later this year.
Millipedes might soothe itchy lemurs, research finds [08/13/2018]
- Scientists have observed red-fronted lemurs in Madagascar biting millipedes and then rubbing themselves with the secretions.
- A team of researchers published their observations in the journal Primates, along with their hypothesis that the lemurs were using the millipede secretions to treat worm infections.
- The study’s lead author also observed lemurs eating the millipedes, which may slow the growth of parasites living in the primates’ intestines.
Madagascar proposes paying illegal loggers to audit or buy their rosewood [08/08/2018]
- In June, the World Bank facilitated a workshop to discuss what Madagascar should do with its stockpiles of illegally logged rosewood.
- Madagascar has been grappling with the question for years, but has been unable to make a proper inventory of the stockpiled wood or control illegal exports.
- The rosewood could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars on the international market, but the country cannot sell it until it shows progress in enforcing its own environmental laws.
- At the workshop, Madagascar’s government proposed a radical solution: paying loggers for access to their illicit stockpiles in order to keep tabs on the wood, or even buying the wood back from them directly.
95 percent of all lemur species face high risk of extinction, experts say [08/02/2018]
- More than 50 experts in primate conservation from around the world recently convened in Antananarivo to review the conservation status of the 111 species and subspecies of lemurs, all endemic to Madagascar, and provide updated threat assessments for the IUCN Red List.
- They found that 105 lemurs — 95 percent of all known lemur species and subspecies — might qualify as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction in the wild.
- The updated assessments produced by the IUCN Species Survival Commission Primate Specialist Group must still undergo a review process before they are fully validated, but the group’s findings would increase the number of lemurs listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List from 24 to 38.
Forest communities pay the price for conservation in Madagascar [07/25/2018]
- In a two-year investigation of a REDD+ pilot project, a team of researchers spoke with more than 450 households affected by the establishment of a large protected area called the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor, a 3,820-square-kilometer (1,475-square-mile) tract of rainforest in eastern Madagascar.
- The REDD+ project, supported by Conservation International and the World Bank, was aimed at supporting communities by providing support for alternative livelihoods to those communities near the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor protected area.
- They found that the REDD+ project’s preliminary studies identified less than half of those negatively affected by the Corridor’s designation.
- The team also discovered that the value of the one-off compensation, in the form of support to pursue other livelihoods, fell far short of the opportunity costs that the communities are likely to face as a result of losing access to the forest in the coming decades.
Angry farmers set fire to offices of Madagascar eco group, gov’t agency [07/13/2018]
- Large swaths of forest inside northwestern Madagascar’s Bongolava Forest Corridor, a protected area, have been burned to make way for commercial corn farming, raising the fortunes of many residents accustomed to living on the edge of subsistence.
- Last month, angry farmers armed with sticks and machetes stormed into the northwestern city of Boriziny, also known as Port–Bergé, to demand the release of people arrested for illegally clearing farmland inside the protected area.
- The group destroyed the offices of the local nonprofit that manages the protected area and set fire to the building it shares with an outpost of the environment ministry, as well as to the homes of the group’s coordinator and the government administrator for the area.
- The episode highlights the difficulty of achieving meaningful conservation in an area where the populace largely views ecological goals as conflicting with an important source of income.
Madagascar’s native fauna defenseless against toxic invasive toads [07/13/2018]
- Toxic Asian common toads (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) have spread rapidly around the port city of Toamasina on Madagascar’s east coast, raising concerns that the invasive amphibians could take a severe toll on the island’s unique wildlife species.
- A recent paper vindicates those concerns: through a genetic analysis of 77 endemic species, scientists found that just one demonstrated clear resistance to toad toxins.
- A separate estimate published last month suggests there are now over 7 million Asian common toads in Madagascar. Reports suggest they arrived accidentally with mine construction equipment prior to 2010.
Uncertainty around Madagascar mine in wake of cyclone [06/27/2018]
- The Ambatovy mine complex near Madagascar’s eastern city of Toamasina is a massive operation to extract nickel and cobalt from the country’s rich soil.
- The $8 billion complex represents the largest-ever foreign investment in the country.
- Over the years, local residents have suspected the mine of causing environmental and health problems, including air and water pollution.
- Locals now fear that Tropical Cyclone Ava, which hit Toamasina hard in January, may have exacerbated these problems — fears that Ambatovy and local officials assert are unfounded.
For Madagascar’s park managers, the science literature is out of reach [06/26/2018]
- The park directors and conservation managers responsible for managing Madagascar’s protected areas tend not to rely on scientific research to make on-the-ground decisions, opting instead for experience and advice from others, a new study has found.
- Several managers, for instance, felt there was “limited research of relevance to them and their needs.”
- Others complained that even when relevant research was carried out, researchers often did not share the results with them.
- Overall, Madagascar’s protected area managers need better access to research, and more relevant research, to help them manage the country’s parks more efficiently and effectively, the study’s authors write.
Madagascar: Yet another anti-trafficking activist convicted [06/19/2018]
- Christopher Magnenjika, an activist working to stem corruption and wildlife trafficking in northeastern Madagascar, was tried, convicted, fined $9 and released earlier this month.
- The charges against Magnenjika include “rebellion” and insulting local officials.
- Magnenjika’s supporters say his arrest and conviction were a pretext for keeping him quiet about the illicit trade in rosewood, a valuable tropical hardwood.
- Magnenjika is one of at least ten Malagasy activists who have faced imprisonment in recent years.
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