I thought this was exciting... so I thought I would share it with you guys!! I'm happy Madagascar has finally become such a priority, seeing as its diversity and uniqueness (if that's a word) is absolutely amazing. Woohoo!
From Animal Planet
Sept. 17, 2003
— "Madagascar plans to more than triple the number of its protected sites to halt an alarming decline in its unique environment, the country's President Marc Ravalomanana said Tuesday.
"We can no longer sit back and allow our forests to go up in flames," Ravalomanana told delegates at the fifth World Parks Congress under way in the eastern port city of Durban.
"We have to adapt a strategy to conserve our forest heritage and marine resources," he told the conference, a once-a-decade event focusing on how to manage and safeguard protected areas.
Ravalomanana said the number of protected sites on Madagascar, the world's fourth largest island which separated from the African mainland some 165 million years ago, will be increased from the current three percent to 10 percent of the territory over the next five years.
"Madagascar is filled with natural riches and unique species," he said, "but we have nine million hectares (22 million acres) of forests endangered by rice growing and the use of firewood."
The Indian Ocean island, which is estimated to have lost 80 percent of its original forest cover, has an existing network of 1.7 million hectares (4.25 million acres) of protected areas, and plans to expand that more than threefold.
"I would like to state the commitment today to raise that coverage to six million hectares (15 million acres) within the next five years," Ravalomanana said.
The 15 million acres include an expansion of marine areas from almost 500,000 acres to about 2.5 million acres.
He said the environment ministry in impoverished Madagascar has been ordered to draw up a plan of action to implement the 10 percent goal.
"We will involve all the people of Madagascar to work together. The problem is not only receiving money but also to ask the population involved to protect the environment. That is the key."
WWF International Director General Claude Martin said the announcement was one of the major outcomes of the parks congress which will adopt a "Durban Accord" at its closing Wednesday, setting out objectives for the next 10 years.
"This is perhaps the most relevant statement made in Durban ... but we still have a long way to go," he said.
Conservation International President Russell Mittermeier said, "Madagascar is one of the world's highest priority hot spots and a leading megadiversity country, with levels of endemism unlike any place on Earth."
Humans settled in Madagascar between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago, and the island's plants and animals developed in pristine isolation, with more than 10,000 species found nowhere else in the world.
It is home to half of the world's chameleons, including the dwarf chameleon that is only a little over an inch long and one of the world's smallest vertebrates. Of the country's 189 amphibians, all but one or two occur only in Madagascar.
The island is well known for its 51 different kinds of lemur, a mostly tree-dwelling mammal. Its species include the tiny pygmy mouse lemur discovered in 1985 and the most unusual aye-aye which has huge ears, shaggy fur and a very thin middle finger on each hand.
New lemur species are still being discovered — the golden bamboo lemur was found in 1986 and the critically endangered Tattersall's sifaka was identified only in 1988.
Its bird species are rapidly declining, with no fewer than four critically endangered, including the Madagascar serpent eagle and the Madagascar fish eagle."