Madagascar is unusual in that it is home to a long list of species that can’t be found anywhere else on the planet, including the Critically Endangered Madagascar pochard. It’s also a place of extreme poverty and environmental loss, so we’re doing all we can to support people’s livelihoods, helping them to protect their wetlands and the stunning biodiversity of the country.
Driving across the central plateau of Madagascar feels like passing through a mining wasteland. The destruction from agriculture and liberal use of fire has laid waste to millions of acres of forests and wetlands. Red scars disfigure the earth where topsoil has eroded. Tree cover has declined by an estimated 90 percent, much of it in the past century. Stripped of these stabilising forests, entire mountainsides have simply fallen away.
Wetland loss is similarly catastrophic. It’s estimated that 60 percent have been lost in the last 60 years. On the central plateau almost all remaining wetlands are severely degraded and many of the species that rely on them, including the Madagascar pochard – the world’s rarest duck, are on the bring of extinction.
The situation is equally grim for the local people. These poor rural communities are some of the most vulnerable in the world. They’re highly dependent on the wetlands and the natural resources around them for their day-to-day survival. As their wetland environment has been destroyed, so too has their means of living.
We’re working with communities to develop sustainable ways of managing their natural environment, to benefit both wildlife and people. From education and training to securing land rights and encouraging more sustainable and diverse agricultural practices, we’re ensuring people have the knowledge and skills they need to be more resilient.
We are also working across the country to help manage wetlands better, creating a national network of wetland managers and providing them with the skills and tools they need to do the job. We’re working with government and civil society to raise awareness and understanding about the importance of healthy, functioning wetlands.
One of our key sites in Madagascar is Lake Sofia, upon which we released Critically Endangered Madagascar pochard ducks into the wild.
Around the lake, huge improvements have already been made: