More than 100 million years ago, Madagascar detached from the African mainland and drifted into the Indian Ocean where it became a natural sanctuary. Without interference from external sources, fauna and flora burgeoned. In fact, more than one percent of the world’s species reside in Madagascar, and the great majority of species living there exist nowhere else.

WCS has led conservation efforts in Madagascar since the 1990s, when we helped create Masoala National Park. Concerned about rising threats to wildlife caused by land clearing for agriculture, bushmeat hunting, and illegal logging and mineral resource extraction, we worked with the government to develop an ambitious plan to safeguard 10 percent of Madagascar’s natural lands.

During June 2012, Madagascar achieved a crucial milestone: the creation of Makira Natural Park in the country’s northeast. Spanning 1,438 square miles of rainforest, the area is larger than the state of Rhode Island.

Now the nation’s largest protected area, Makira houses the highest diversity of lemur species on the planet, including the red-ruffed and silky sifaka lemur (one of the world’s most endangered primates). It also shelters the fossa, thought to be Madagascar’s only large predator.

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

WCS efforts in Madagascar focus on more than biodiversity conservation. In partnership with the Malagasy government, we have worked to tackle climate change using the Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) framework, one that markets Makira’s carbon offsets to finance conservation efforts. REDD+ also engages local communities: half of revenues generated by carbon offsets directly support local communities.

To learn more about these developments, read the press release.