Wildlife Conservation Society commends Madagascar for creation of Makira Natural Park 

New park contains 20 lemur species

NEW YORK (August 17, 2012)—The Wildlife Conservation Society applauds the government of Madagascar for recently creating Makira Natural Park, now the island nation’s largest protected area and home to the highest diversity of lemur species on the planet.

Makira Natural Park represents an important milestone toward achieving the country’s Durban Vision, a plan formulated by Madagascar in 2003 to safeguard 10 percent of Madagascar’s natural lands.

“This is truly a landmark in Madagascar’s ongoing commitment to protect its natural heritage,” said Dr. Cristián Samper, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Makira Natural Park now represents the center of biodiversity conservation for the nation.”

WCS has led efforts to safeguard Makira for more than a decade. Temporary designation as a forest protected area was granted in 2005 by the Madagascar Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Dr. Christopher Holmes, Director of WCS’s Madagascar Program, said: “Not only does Makira protect the largest remaining tract of the island’s rainforest, but it is a demonstration of a new model for integrated conservation in Madagascar where local communities – de facto stewards of the forest resources – become partners with the State in protected area management.”

Located in northeastern Madagascar, Makira Natural Park contains the country’s largest swath of rainforest in an area covering 372,470 hectares (1,438 square miles—an area larger than the state of Rhode Island). It is estimated that Makira, the adjacent Masoala National Park, and the rest of the Antongil Bay watershed together is the island’s richest region in terms of sheer biodiversity.

The new park (created by decree number 2012 – 641 and signed on June 19) contains 20 of the island’s 103 species of lemurs, a unique group of primates (relatives of apes, monkeys, and humans) found only in Madagascar. Makira’s lemur species include the red-ruffed lemur (found only in the forests of Makira and Masoala Parks) and the silky sifaka, recently discovered in Makira’s mid-altitude forests and one of the 25 most endangered primates on the planet. In addition to protecting lemurs, Makira Natural Park will ensure the conservation of many other species, including what is thought to be the largest population of Madagascar’s only large predator, the cat-like fossa that eats lemurs and requires very large areas of intact forest to maintain healthy populations.

Complementing the importance of its biodiversity, the Makira landscape is one of the most advanced in the world when it comes to tackling climate change by reducing deforestation. Using a global framework known as REDD+ (Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation), in 2008 the Malagasy government and WCS announced a joint agreement to market Makira’s carbon offsets—an estimated 31 million tons over 30 years—to finance the long-term conservation of Makira and bring direct and measurable benefits back to the local communities that live in Makira’s border forests and are directly engaged in co-management of the park. Fifty percent of revenues generated from the marketing of Makira’s carbon offsets will flow back to these local communities to support improved resource stewardship and livelihoods.

“Makira Natural Park is a spectacular achievement for both the wildlife and people of Madagascar,” said Dr. James Deutsch, Executive Director for WCS’s Africa Program. “The protected area also serves as an important flagship for the REDD+ program and community-based management.”

WCS has been committed to protecting the wildlife and wild places of Madagascar since the 1990s, particularly in Masoala National Park (Madagascar’s largest national park created in 1997 with assistance from WCS) and Makira Natural Park. Threats to Makira and the surrounding region include clearing lands for agriculture, bushmeat hunting, illegal logging, and illegal mineral resource extraction.

Working with the Madagascar Ministry of Environment and Forests, Madagascar National Parks, local authorities, and community stakeholders, WCS will continue to address these threats and provide the technical and administrative assistance needed to ensure the protection of Madagascar’s natural heritage. To bring global attention to Madagascar, WCS’s Bronx Zoo opened Madagascar! in 2008, a groundbreaking exhibit that showcases the island nation’s rich biodiversity.

The Wildlife Conservation Society
saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit www.wcs.org

JOHN DELANEY: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)
STEPHEN SAUTNER: (1-718-220 3682; ssautner@wcs.org)