project news

Forest Fire Threat to Wildlife in Madagascar

News item submitted by Ben. C Margerison
News item dated 10 Jan 2011


2009 and 2010 saw an era of unprecedented destruction in the forests of Madagascar, and recent analysis of satellite images provided by NASA has shed light on the sheer number and scale of forest fires that have befell this highly biodiverse and fascinating country in recent years. The increase in deforestation and fires in the region is thought to coincide partly with the political turmoil that has affected the region since 2009, which has directly led to a lack of enforcement in protection of forested regions.

This has further compounded pre-existing problems affecting the state of forests. In Malagasy culture, many farmers practice the method of cultivation known locally as ‘Tavy’ or slash-and-burn, whereby small areas of rainforest are cut down, burned and then used for agriculture, pasture for livestock, or for the production of charcoal. The last two years have seen the rainy season arriving late, meaning that the effects of the traditional burning season have been far worse in comparison to previous years.

Another more recent development that has also coincided with the current political situation in the country is the increase in illegal logging, particularly of more luxurious woods such as rosewood and ebony, which are mainly intended for export to East Asian markets, where they can sell for huge amounts of money. This is also thought be a significant factor in the recent increase in forest fires. Frontier currently runs a forest based project in the North of Madagascar, between two protected areas, the Montagne D’Ambre National Park and Ankarana Special Reserve.

Current work involves undertaking research in order to determine the connectivity in terms of wildlife migration between the two protected areas. The team has experienced first hand the devastation that forest fires have had on the flora and flora in the region; they have recently been surveying the spatial and temporal effects of slash-and-burn practices in the vicinity of the small settlement of Tsarakibany in order to highlight how unsustainable and detrimental these practices are to wildlife.

Learn more about our Madagascar Wildlife Conservation Project