The principle threats to Madagascar's biodiversity come from the small-scale but widespread clearing of forests associated with slash-and-burn agriculture and firewood collection. Villagers rely on many forest resources to meet their basic needs; the trade
in reptiles and amphibians is also depleting wild populations.
Since the arrival of humans 2,000 years ago, Madagascar has lost more than 90%of its original forest
cover and many of its endemic species. For example, the world’s largest flightless bird, the 10-foot-tall "elephant bird" Aepyornis
, once lived in this ecoregion, as did the pygmy hippopotamus
, the giant tortoise
, and 16 additional species of lemur
, including a giant ground-dwelling species.
Even now, virtually all the unique habitats and endemic animals of Madagascar face significant threats. It now has the greatest number of critically endangered primates of any country in the world.