Monday, 17 May 2010

Madagascar needs eco tourism back

In 2008, Eco-tourism and local economies in Madagascar were developing hand-in-hand and enjoying great success but since 2009, political chaos has wreaked havoc on both, leading to devastating environmental impacts. For some, the scale of benefits brought by tourism are only being realised as they disappear and many are now understanding that socially, environmentally, economically, Madagascar needs tourism back.

Madagascar’s exceptional ecosystem nurtures thousands of species found nowhere else in the world, with eighty percent of plants and animals being endemic

After decades of illegal logging and slash and burn farming, Madagascar transformed it’s approach to safeguarding its environment to such an extent that by 2008, its conservation strategy was seen as an international model. With this came the involvement if local people and a massive boost to village economies, as ‘green tourism’ became a lucrative business.

Alas, in the wake of this phenomenal achievement, political violence broke out in Madagascar's capital. President Ravalomanana was forced into exhile and the ensuing political turmoil had devastating effects.

Simon Reeve, of BBC ‘Tropic of Cancer’ fame, recently commented in METRO that “Madagascar’s National Parks are almost completely funded by eco-tourism” and “…unless people go there, these places will be cut down and turned into barren land”. With tourists frightened away, the vital financial incentive for conservation has been removed. The decline in tourism has hit the economy hard, with tourist arrivals dropping around fifty percent.

Despite the decline, scientific research continues to operate and in April this year, researchers reported that a species of lemur has been rediscovered more than a century after it was last spotted. The number of lemurs known to science has more than doubled since 1994, due to increased research.

Read the full story: Eco-tourism needed to protect Madagascar’s future

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