Asity Madagascar (BirdLife in Madagascar) has joined a group of Malagasy civil society organisations, Voahary Gasy, calling for an end to the plundering of natural resources in the national parks of north-east Madagascar.
Following the change of government in March this year, all but essential humanitarian aid has been withdrawn by the international community, leaving Madagascar's national park and forestry services with little or no funding. Loggers have moved into the protected areas, stripping the forests of valuable hardwoods such as rosewood, ebony and mahogany. They work for influential business people who are in possession of illegal but "official" documentation permitting them to export these hardwoods.
Local communities who depend on forest resources and on tourism have been threatened and attacked when opposing these illegal and highly destructive activities. A new trade in bushmeat has developed. Lemurs in particular are being killed in large numbers, and some hunters are supplying restaurants 'to order'.
A number of endemic birds are largely or entirely confined to pristine primary forest in north-east Madagascar, among them the Endangered Madagascar Serpent Eagle Eutriorchis astur and Vulnerable Helmet Vanga Euryceros prevostii and Bernier's Vanga Oriolia bernieri. With the complete breakdown of the enforcement of protected area regulation, and armed gangs operating with impunity in the forests, it has not been possible to assess the impact on these and other threatened species.
The Malagasy NGOs which have come together to form Voahary Gasy are calling for an immediate halt to exports of hardwoods, particularly rosewood, the enforcement of protected area regulation, the creation of a task force to combat environmental crime, and a campaign to raise awareness within Madagascar of the nature and extent of the destruction of the island's remaining forests.