Madagascar Dry Forests

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Sunset in Madagascar plateau.
© WWF-Canon / John E. NEWBY

About the Area

The island of Madagascar is a living laboratory of evolution - isolated from the rest of the world for over 60 million years. The tropical dry forests in the western part of the island support hundreds of endemic plant and animal species, including numerous chameleon species, the world’s most endangered tortoise, the Angonoka tortoise, and the rare aye-aye. There are 7 species of baobab trees as compared to only one in all of Africa.

Periods of steady rainfall alternate with drier periods in the areas where Madagascar's dry forests grow. The dry forests are home to rare animals and plants adapted to life where rain may not fall for up to 8 months. Many of these creatures, such as lemurs and fossas, are found nowhere else on Earth.

Temperatures remain warm throughout the year.

Size:
151,000 sq. km (58,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Dry Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Western coast of Madagascar

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
Selected species include the giant jumping rat (Hypogeomys antimena), Milne-Edwards' sportive lemur (Lepilemur edwardsi), Van Dam vanga (Xenopirostris damii), Appert's greenbul (Phyllastrephus apperti), and the flat-tailed tortoise (Pyxis planicauda).

Featured Species

The Malagasy giant jumping rat (Hypogeomys antimena)- or vositse, as it is known to the local Malagasy people, is no ordinary rat. Rabbit sized, with soft greyish-brown fur, large delicate ears and a mass of softly quivering whiskers, the giant jumping rat can sit and move like a tiny kangaroo, balanced on its oversized hind legs, using its long tail for balance.

The giant jumping rat can leap almost 1 m (3 ft) in the air to avoid predators - namely the puma-like fossa. Nocturnal, giant jumping rats leave their burrow at dusk to feed on fallen fruit and seeds. Food is consumed in a manner similar to squirrels whereby it is held in the forepaws and manipulated in the mouth while the rat sits semi-upright on its haunches.

The wild giant jumping rats are born at the start of the warm rainy season in late November and early December. A litter generally consists of 1-2. These rats live in burrows that typically consist of a complex of tunnels.

Habitat loss and competition from introduced black rats threaten its survival. It is listed as endangered by IUCN.

Read more:
Threats
Most of the forest has been cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture, pasture, firewood, or construction materials and secondary grasslands now cover most of the region. Uncontrolled burning of surrounding degraded savannas is eating away the remaining fragments of forest.
WWF’s work
WWF and its partners are working with the Malagasy government, traditional leaders, women, and other local organizations and citizens to help protect traditionally sacred and taboo forests, reduce fuelwood consumption, ensure the protection of national park and protected areas, and build support for conservation through rural radio, theater, and other environmental education and communication programmes.

Recent activities have included the development of management plans for existing parks, training for park staff, and workshops to help women learn how to build fuel-efficient stoves that reduce household wood and charcoal consumption by 40%. WWF is also continuing to support research on the endangered lemur populations, build a network of locally managed tree plantations, and conduct training programmes for conservation leaders.

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