Rewilding the Remarkable Madagascar
While our planet is a wonderland of wildlands, there are few places as spectacular as Madagascar, a Biodiversity Hotspot. The world’s largest oceanic island and the fourth largest island overall, Madagascar contains a diverse range of ecosystems that host an exceptional array of species. While there are many other countries recognized for their wildlife, Madagascar’s biodiversity is in a category by itself. It holds one of the greatest concentrations of evolutionary history anywhere and is considered among the highest biodiversity conservation priorities on Earth—if not the highest.
Madagascar is home to thousands of endemic plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet that have evolved over the 90 million years that it has been secluded from the rest of the world. This includes its world-famous lemurs, mega-colorful chameleons, and more than 300 species of frogs. In fact, 5% of the world’s biodiversity is found here, on this island, which covers only 0.4% of our planet’s landmass.
Tropical forests like those of Madagascar are also an indispensable part of any solution to the climate crisis because of the vast amount of carbon they sequester. These forests also provide services critical to all life across the planet, including clean water, nutrient-rich soils, food, fiber, protection from diseases, habitat for wildlife and social and cultural benefits.
Madagascar faces one of the world’s biggest conservation challenges: it is suffering historic rates of habitat loss, primarily as a result of slash-and-burn agriculture, and overexploitation of its natural resources, timber and fuelwood extraction, and charcoal production. Nearly 90% of the original natural vegetation across Madagascar has already been destroyed, leaving it perilously fragmented, disturbing the natural homes and breeding grounds of wildlife, pushing animals dangerously close to people, and isolating very small populations that can quickly die out.
The Re:wild Solution
Re:wild is focused first and foremost on protecting the remaining areas of intact natural forest that remain in Madagascar, some of them quite small and fragmented, since they protect the full range of species that will enable restoration in the future. Hand in hand with this top priority, we are also engaging in reforestation, expanding existing natural areas and connecting fragments.
In addition to supporting and implementing specific conservation actions for lemurs and promoting ecotourism as a way to protect the forests while improving the livelihoods of local communities, Re:wild is focused on rewilding Madagascar through reforestation—an effective strategy for restoring degraded landscapes and forest health.
Planting native trees promotes the natural ecological processes that allow plants, animals and microbes to work together to turn once-degraded land into healthy, nutrient-rich environments. These environments provide important ecosystem services by improving hydrology and regulating climate. Planting trees also supports the viability of remaining forest patches, making them larger and connecting them to other important habitats.
Re:wild is working with eight organizations and institutions that are restoring Madagascar’s forests, working with local communities to develop and implement projects focused on forest regeneration, biodiversity conservation and economic growth. Their work not only restores degraded habitat, growing and providing habitats for key species, but also brings jobs and income to the communities that also depend on these forests— their home.