Continuing our series on Africa’s parks posts ahead of the World Parks Congress in Sydney, we are staying with Madagascar this week. What we have been trying to show is that Africa is a big place and not all parks are the same!
As mentioned last week Madagascar’s wildlife reserves are fragmented and often very small. Because of the prevailing winds and weather, the island has very different climate and vegetation zones, all nurturing different species. It’s a difficult place to do conservation. Last week we looked at Anja, one of Madagascar’s smallest reserves. Great to visit but an ecological dead end.
The park is still quite difficult to access but well worth the trouble. Credit: March Turnbull
One of the biggest protected areas is Tsingy de Bemaraha, and at 150,000 hectares it is an entirely different prospect. It has always been pretty inaccessible because of its formidable limestone formations, not to mention the roads. It was also a strictly protected reserve traditionally, meaning that only researchers could get in. But now the southern part – which makes up the Tisngy de Bemaraha National Park – is a popular tourist destination and and an extraordinary travel experience. The northern section remains off limits to casual visitors and the whole protected area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ecologically it is priceless. That’s easy to say in Madagascar, where so much flora and fauna is found nowhere else on earth, but in Tsingy the endemism is even more extreme. While 85% of the wildlife in this park is endemic to Madagascar, almost 50% is endemic to Tsingy…… And it is widely believed the species list for this reserves is still far from complete.
One of 11 lemur species in the National Park, this Decken’s Sifaka (Propithecus deckenii) at home on the limestone karsts of Tsingy de Benaraha. The rock can be brutally sharp and hot. Credit: March Turnbull
This is an excerpt from the Travel Madagascar website:
Visitors can spot 11 lemur species, including for Decken’s sifaka, red-fronted brown lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, grey mouse lemur or the Cleese’s woolly lemur and the Sambirano lesser bamboo lemur, which only occur here. Other resident mammals are the small carnivorous falanouc and ring-tailed mongoose, and several bats.
More than 100 bird species have been catalogued at present inside the National Park, including the critically endangered Madagascar fish eagle and crested ibis, Madagascar wood-rail, giant coua or Coquerel´s coua.
The 45 reptiles and amphibians which are found here are all endemic. Some significant species which only occur in Bemaraha are the Madagascar iguana, a local endemic long-tailed skink and the Antsingy leaf chameleon.
If it is hard to imagine it anywhere else, that’s probably because it it isn’t anywhere else… Credit: March Turnbull
Visitors are not going to see all those species, mostly because the terrain is so hostile. But that’s also its attraction. The massively eroded limestone formations are incredible to behold, and the park authorities have done their best to get you in amongst them; there are ladders, rock bolts, and aerial platforms to give you an amazing visitor experience.
Visitors need a head for heights – ladders, bridges, steep steps and cracks to squeeze through are part of the fun. Credit: March Turnbull
Conservation is hard. In Madagascar, with massive poverty, a growing population, unstable government and some of the most precious wildlife anywhere in the world, it is much harder still. It is on the back foot, yet it is still there. Good people are working hard to preserve it. Take a look at this WWF report. 615 new species were found on the island between 1999 and 2010……! That is quite astonishing. WWF Madagascar are one of many NGOs working really hard with Madagascar National Parks.
We could post again and again on Madagascan parks as the World Park Congress approaches but I will try to resist the temptation….
Click on the icon below to see more detail on Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar. Use the Read More buttons to see further detail - if you can correct or improve the data please let us know!
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