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Situated in the Indian Ocean 400 km (249 miles) off the south-eastern coast of Africa, Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island, almost the size of France, and the oldest, splitting from Africa around 150 million years ago and from India 88 million years ago. Madagascar’s long geographical isolation has resulted in extraordinary biodiversity with unparalleled levels of endemism, making the country one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots.

Some 15,000 species, over 90% of all known species in Madagascar, occur nowhere else, and new species continue to be found, with 615 discovered between 1999 and 2010 alone. Of the 307 bird species found here, 115 are endemic to the island. 95% of the 211 mammal species are endemic, including the hedgehog-like tenrecs, as well as 107 species of lemur—a group of primates native only to Madagascar. Only three of the 309 amphibian species are not endemic, and 96% of the 457 reptile species are unique to Madagascar. Malagasy floral diversity is equally exceptional, with 82% of the 11,516 known vascular plant species found only here, including six endemic baobabs.


Supporting this staggering biological diversity is a range of ancient habitats arising from Madagascar’s varied climate and topography. Reaching 2,876 metres above sea level, the mountainous central highlands block rain brought by warm moist trade winds from the Indian Ocean, depositing ten times more rain on the east side of the island than on the west. Four terrestrial ecoregions are recognised, consisting of different forest types—moist evergreen rainforest in the east, dry deciduous forest in the west, the harsh arid spiny forest in the south, and mangroves along the west coast. Marine ecoregions include the Toliara Reef, the third-largest coral reef system in the world.

Destruction of native forest is the main threat to Madagascar’s wildlife, with an estimated 90% of Madagascar’s original forest cover now lost. Much of its wildlife is now threatened with extinction, making the country one of the world’s highest priorities for biodiversity conservation. With much of Madagascar’s growing rural population living in poverty, slash-and-burn agriculture—known locally as tavy—has increased rapidly to become one of the leading causes of deforestation, even on steep slopes. Other major threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity include illegal logging in the rainforests in the east, charcoal production in the spiny forest, erosion, and illegal hunting of wildlife for food and trade. WLT is now supporting forest restoration projects in Madagascar, providing an alternative sustainable livelihood for local communities. The native tree species being planted are chosen for the benefits they provide both people and wildlife.


Our partners in Madagascar

Current Projects in Madagascar


Ankarafantsika National Park


Following extensive deforestation in south-east Madagascar’s Vangaindrano District, just a single forest remains here: Ankarabolava-Agnakatrika. A priority area for biodiversity conservation, it is the last home of lemurs in the district, providing habitat for at least six species, including the White-collared Lemur (Critically Endangered). Also present are birds like Henst’s Goshawk (Vulnerable) and an array of highly threatened and locally endemic plant species, some of which are known only from this forest. Established as a protected area in 2009 by Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG)’s Madagascar Programme, Ankarabolava-Agnakatrika is the focus of WLT’s upcoming appeal, Madagascar: A Forest for the Future.

Funds raised for this appeal will be used by MBG to purchase 200 ha of degraded land from willing local landowners, incorporating it into the existing protected area and restoring it with 500,000 new trees. MBG expect to employ around 1,000 people from local communities over the course of the restoration project. These communities will also benefit from the additional protections secured for Ankarabolava-Agnakatrika, as the forest provides them with food, medicinal plants, the materials they use to build their homes, and the water that feeds their crops.

White-collared Lemur on a branch facing the camera
A view of a trail through deciduous forest in Ankarafantsika National Park
Ankarafantsika National Park

Situated in north-west Madagascar, the 135,000 ha (333,592 acre) Ankarafantsika National Park protects one of just five remaining areas of Madagascar’s dry deciduous forest larger than 50,000 ha (124,000 acres). The park’s rich biodiversity includes 64 species of reptile, 13 amphibian species, 127 bird species, and 352 endemic plants. Mammals include the Critically Endangered Coquerel’s Sifaka and Mongoose Lemur, the Endangered Milne-Edward’s Sportive Lemur, and the Endangered Greater Big-footed Mouse—the only place in the world where the latter is found.

However, forest continues to be lost and fragmented by slash-and-burn agriculture, charcoal production, timber extraction, exploitation of non-timber forest products, climate change-induced droughts, and increasing natural fires. In 2022, WLT partnered with Planet Madagascar Association (PMA) to provide 180,000 seedlings over three years to reforest 150 ha (371 acres) of anthropogenic grassland in the park’s 8,000 ha (19,768 acre) Ambanjabe Management Zone—part of PMA’s goal to restore a total of 2,000 ha (4,942 acres) of dry deciduous forest. The project is also providing revenue for women’s cooperatives; funding 18 community patrollers to protect the restoration areas; and supporting local communities through educational outreach programmes, livestock keepers, radio broadcasts, and beekeeping and citrus farming initiatives.


Key species protected by WLT projects


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