Ramsar wetlands: quintuplet for Madagascar’s biodiversity!
The process of submission of wetlands of Madagascar to the Ramsar Convention is an initiative of the Malagasy government, through the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forestry, in collaboration with site managers and conservation organizations which intervene in Madagascar (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Blue Ventures, The Peregrine Fund, Madagascar National Parks). This national initiative has been very actively supported by WWF Madagascar, which also manages two of the five new sites and WWF International's Freshwater Practice.
The five new wetlands included in the Ramsar Convention:
- Zones humides de l’Onilahy: The Site is located in the Amoron’i Onilahy Protected Area in the south-west of Madagascar. It covers a 75-kilometre stretch of the lower Onilahy River. The Site is notable for the high degree of heterogeneity of its habitats as well as the rate of endemism of its unique flora and fauna. It provides key habitats for a wide range of animal species: 27 mammals; 56 reptiles, 79 bird species; and the recently identified toadfish Allenbatrachus meridionalis. WWF Madagascar supported the establishment of the Protected Area and has helped local resource-dependent communities identify alternative sustainable livelihoods.
- L’archipel des îles Barren extends between 15 and 65 kilometers south-west of the town of Maintirano in the Mozambique Channel. The wide range of preserved, healthy and productive habitats supports exceptionally rich ecosystems, which include 39 coral genera and 150 species of fish. The site is home to five threatened bird species, five species of threatened sea turtles, eight threatened shark species and the critically endangered coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae. A new model of fisheries management promoting the human rights and protecting the fishing zones of more than 4,000 traditional fishermen has been developed by Blue Ventures, which manages the site.
- Les mangroves de Tsiribihina, in the Menabe Region, includes lagoons, sandbanks, salt and mud flats, marshes and dry land, and about 20,000 hectares of mangrove forest (8.5% of the mangrove area of Madagascar). The site is home to the lemur Propithecus verreauxi and the flying fox Pteropus rufus, as well as the critically endangered hawksbill turtle Eretmochelys imbricata. The Site is also home to 44 listed waterbird species. Living there in the heart of WWF Madagascar’s Manambolo Tsiribihina Landscape, local communities are supported to ensure the sustainable management of resources.
- Lake Sofia is located in Sofia Region, in the rural District of Marotolana. The Site consists of the permanent lake, Cyperus swamps, and rivers and streams on the upstream and downstream sides of the lake. Lake Sofia supports 36 species of waterbirds with five endangered species including the endangered Anas melleri. The site is managed by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, along with local communities.
- Zones humides d’Ambondrombe, on the plain of the lower Manambolo River in Menabe Region, west coast of Madagascar. It is a conservation area for endemic and endangered species such as the Madagascar sacred ibis Threskiornis bernieri, and the critically endangered Madagascar fish-eagle Haliaeetus vociferoides and Madagascar big-headed turtle Erymnochelys madagascariensis. The site is managed by Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Overall, Madagascar designated 10 new Ramsar sites in 2017, after Antrema, Nosy Ve Androka, Sahamalaza, Ankarafantsika and Bemanevika in February of this year. In total, the country now has 20 Ramsar sites with a combined area of more than two million hectares. Their diverse ecosystems provide habitats for an extraordinary range of endemic and endangered species.