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This article tracks the historical processes that shaped human waste management practices in Majunga, Madagascar from the city's founding in the mid-eighteenth century to contemporary times. Moving beyond colonial urban histories of sanitation, this article charts the meanings, strategies, and work practices Majunga residents employed to deal with predicaments of waste in everyday life. I argue that the particular material configuration of the colonial sanitation infrastructure in Majunga required new forms of labor — especially maintenance work — which city dwellers evaluated through existing moral norms. With the construction of French colonial sanitation infrastructures and the new labor regimes they necessitated, waste management became a key vector through which notions of difference were negotiated over the early- to mid-twentieth century. Shifting emphasis away from colonial infrastructure as disparity and onto moments of reception can contribute fresh insights not only on the histories of African cities, but also to histories of technology in the Global South.
The mammal family Tenrecidae (Afrotheria: Afrosoricida) is endemic to Madagascar. Here we present the conservation priorities for the 31 species of tenrec that were assessed or reassessed in 2015–2016 for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Six species (19.4%) were found to be threatened (4 Vulnerable, 2 Endangered) and one species was categorized as Data Deficient. The primary threat to tenrecs is habitat loss, mostly as a result of slash-and-burn agriculture, but some species are also threatened by hunting and incidental capture in fishing traps. In the longer term, climate change is expected to alter tenrec habitats and ranges. However, the lack of data for most tenrecs on population size, ecology and distribution, together with frequent changes in taxonomy (with many cryptic species being discovered based on genetic analyses) and the poorly understood impact of bushmeat hunting on spiny species (Tenrecinae), hinders conservation planning. Priority conservation actions are presented for Madagascar's tenrecs for the first time since 1990 and focus on conserving forest habitat (especially through improved management of protected areas) and filling essential knowledge gaps. Tenrec research, monitoring and conservation should be integrated into broader sustainable development objectives and programmes targeting higher profile species, such as lemurs, if we are to see an improvement in the conservation status of tenrecs in the near future.
Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of deposits at the Lakaton'i Anja rockshelter site in Madagascar extends the chronology of human activity on the island back to 4500 BP. These results have roused archaeological and palaeoecological interest in the implications of mid Holocene human colonisation of remote islands in the Indian Ocean. There is, however, evidence of extensive bioturbation at the site, reflected in over-dispersion and other characteristics of the OSL data. It is argued here that OSL ages on minor sedimentary components indicate a much younger chronology consistent with radiocarbon dates for human activity no earlier than the first millennium AD.
Decision-makers need readily accessible tools to understand the potential impacts of alternative policies on forest cover and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and to develop effective policies to meet national and international targets for biodiversity conservation, sustainable development and climate change mitigation. Land change modelling can support policy decisions by demonstrating potential impacts of policies on future deforestation and GHG emissions. We modelled land change to explore the potential impacts of expert-informed scenarios on deforestation and GHG emissions, specifically CO2 emissions, in the Ankeniheny–Zahamena Corridor in eastern Madagascar. We considered four scenarios: business as usual; effective conservation of protected areas; investment in infrastructure; and agricultural intensification. Our results highlight that effective forest conservation could deliver substantial emissions reductions, while infrastructure development will likely cause forest loss in new areas. Agricultural intensification could prevent additional forest loss if it reduced the need to clear more land while improving food security. Our study demonstrates how available land change modelling tools and scenario analyses can inform land-use policies, helping countries reconcile economic development with forest conservation and climate change mitigation commitments.
Habitat fragmentation creates habitat edges, and ecological edge effects can cause major changes in the ecology and distribution of many taxa. However, these ecological changes may in turn influence animal movements and lead to molecular edge effects and edge-related genetic structure, matters that are largely unexplored. This study aims to infer molecular edge effects and to test three possible underlying mechanisms in the Endangered golden-brown mouse lemur Microcebus ravelobensis, a nocturnal species in the dry deciduous forest of the Ankarafantsika National Park in north-western Madagascar. Mouse lemurs were sampled in one edge and two interior habitats in close proximity to each other (500–1,400 m) in a continuous forest. A total of 41 mouse lemur samples were genotyped with seven nuclear microsatellites, and a fragment of the mitochondrial control region was sequenced for all samples. The overall genetic diversity (allelic richness, heterozygosity, haplotype richness, nucleotide diversity) was lower in the edge habitat compared to the two interior sites and all subpopulations showed signals of relatively low genetic exchange and significant genetic differentiation between them despite the short geographical distances, supporting the local preference model. These findings can be interpreted as preliminary signals of a molecular edge effect and suggest the potential for local adaptation. They are highly relevant for the conservation of fragmented populations, because a further subdivision of already small populations may increase their vulnerability to stochastic demographic changes and collapse.
Despite conservation discourses in Madagascar increasingly emphasizing the role of customary institutions for wildlife management, we know relatively little about their effectiveness. Here, we used semi-structured interviews with 54 adults in eight villages to investigate whether sacred caves and taboos offer conservation benefits for cave-dwelling bats in and around Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, south-west Madagascar. Although some caves were described as sites of spiritual significance for the local communities, most interviewees (c. 76%) did not recognize their present-day sacred status. Similarly, only 22% of the interviewees recognized taboos inhibiting bat hunting and consumption. Legal protection of bats and caves through protected areas was often more widely acknowledged than customary regulations, although up to 30% of the interviewees reported consumption of bats within their communities. Guano extraction was often tolerated in sacred caves in exchange for economic compensation. This may benefit bat conservation by creating incentives for bat protection, although extraction is often performed through destructive and exploitative practices with little benefit for local communities. In view of these results our study questions the extent to which sacred sites, taboos and protected areas offer protection for bats in Madagascar. These results support previous studies documenting the erosion of customary institutions in Madagascar, including the loss of the spiritual values underpinning sacred sites. Given that many Malagasy bats are cave-dwelling species and that most depend on the customary protection of these sites, it is important to obtain a better understanding of the complex interactions between spiritual practices, taboos and protected areas in sustaining bat diversity.
Madagascar is one of the most threatened biodiversity hotspots, and protection of its biodiversity is becoming increasingly urgent as deforestation of the island continues. For the long-term success of conservation efforts it is essential that key ecological processes, such as seed dispersal, are protected and restored. Therefore, the identification of ecological gaps is a vital task. For Madagascar, only little is known about plant–animal interactions, and traditional methods of ecological research are too time-consuming to provide crucial information about breakdowns in these interactions. To identify likely dispersal gaps we therefore used a theoretical approach to analyse plant–disperser interactions in Madagascar. We used data science tools to impute missing data on relevant plant traits to subsequently predict the most likely dispersal agents for each of Madagascar's endemic plant species. We found that 38% of the endemic species (N = 8,784) are endozoochorous, and among these 26–41% display a primate syndrome and 17–19% a bird syndrome (depending on the definition of syndromes). This lower percentage of endozoochorous species and higher percentage of species with a primate syndrome in Madagascar compared to other tropical areas reflects the unusual disperser guild on the island. Only five bird species but 20 lemur species are frugivorous, and 16 of those lemur species are currently threatened with extinction. The disappearance of frugivorous lemurs would significantly change the vegetation dynamics of Madagascar's ecosystems, and a high proportion of Madagascar's endemic plants would enter an extinction vortex.
Extinction is the complete loss of a species, but the accuracy of that status depends on the overall information about the species. Dracaena umbraculifera was described in 1797 from a cultivated plant attributed to Mauritius, but repeated surveys failed to relocate it and it was categorized as Extinct on the IUCN Red List. However, several individuals labelled as D. umbraculifera grow in botanical gardens, suggesting that the species’ IUCN status may be inaccurate. The goal of this study was to understand (1) where D. umbraculifera originated, (2) which species are its close relatives, (3) whether it is extinct, and (4) the identity of the botanical garden accessions and whether they have conservation value. We sequenced a cpDNA region of Dracaena from Mauritius, botanical garden accessions labelled as D. umbraculifera, and individuals confirmed to be D. umbraculifera based on morphology, one of which is a living plant in a private garden. We included GenBank accessions of Dracaena from Madagascar and other locations and reconstructed the phylogeny using Bayesian and parsimony approaches. Phylogenies indicated that D. umbraculifera is more closely related to Dracaena reflexa from Madagascar than to Mauritian Dracaena. As anecdotal information indicated that the living D. umbraculifera originated from Madagascar, we conducted field expeditions there and located five wild populations; the species’ IUCN status should therefore be Critically Endangered because < 50 wild individuals remain. Although the identity of many botanical garden samples remains unresolved, this study highlights the importance of living collections for facilitating new discoveries and the importance of documenting and conserving the flora of Madagascar.
Although roads are often assumed to be barriers to the dispersal of arboreal species, there has been little empirical testing of this assumption. If arboreal animals are unable to cross roads, population subdivision may occur, or resources may become inaccessible. We tested the hypothesis that Route Nationale 4 (RN4), a paved highway, was a barrier to movement and dispersal of the Endangered golden-brown mouse lemur Microcebus ravelobensis in Ankarafantsika National Park, in north-west Madagascar. During June–August 2015 we conducted a capture–mark–recapture study at three sites: two adjacent to RN4 and one within intact forest without a potential barrier. During 2,294 trap nights we captured 120 golden-brown mouse lemurs 1,032 times. In roadside habitats we captured significantly more males than females, whereas the opposite was the case in interior forest habitat. We detected eighteen crossings of highway transects by nine individuals; however, all potential dispersal events involved males. In roadside habitat, movement was significantly inhibited in both males and females. We present some of the first data on the effects of roads on movement patterns in arboreal Malagasy mammals, showing species- and sex-biased effects of roads as dispersal barriers. Our findings indicate that roads may not be complete barriers to dispersal in lemurs. We recommend that conservation managers and scientists examine explicitly the effects of roads and natural arboreal bridges in Madagascar in future studies.
Hunting of wildlife is one of the major threats to biodiversity. For effective conservation programmes in countries where hunting and shifting agriculture are the main sources of subsistence, forest management should aim to reduce hunting pressure and forest exploitation. The presence of researchers has been promoted as one of the main ways to mitigate anthropogenic pressures on wildlife populations. Our aim was to test whether local management and the establishment of a research station had a role in decreasing forest exploitation by local people living adjacent to a recently protected area in south-east Madagascar. We interviewed local people from nine villages at various distances from the recently established research station of Ampasy, in the northernmost portion of the Tsitongambarika Protected Area, to explore how people use the forest, with a particular focus on hunting. We also performed transect surveys to estimate snare and lemur encounter rates before local forest management began, at the establishment of the research station, and 1 year after. The impact of local communities on the forest seems to have decreased since the beginning of forest management, with a further decrease since the establishment of the research station. Participants from villages not involved in the local management were more reluctant to declare their illegal activities. We conclude that a combination of local management and related activities (e.g. installation of a research station) can assist in temporarily reducing forest exploitation by local communities; however, community needs and conservation plans should be integrated to maintain long-term benefits.
The trade of live parrots is a threat to wild populations but is understudied. Madagascar is home to three parrot species listed on CITES Appendix II: Coracopsis nigra, Coracopsis vasa and Agapornis canus. Prior to this study there were no data on the ownership of parrots in Madagascar. We therefore aimed to investigate the extent of the domestic pet trade in this group. Our objectives were to quantify the prevalence, spatial extent, and timing of ownership. We collected data in July and August 2016 in nine urban towns across Madagascar, using semi-structured household surveys (n = 440). We found that the ownership of pet parrots is widespread in time and space; 37% (95% CI 26–48%) of interviewees had seen, and 8% (95% CI 3–13%) had owned, a Coracopsis sp. Fewer interviewees (4.5% of all interviewees) had seen A. canus in captivity, and only one individual reported having previously owned an A. canus. We estimate that 1,290 Coracopsis spp. individuals were held in captivity in the towns surveyed, in the 1.5 years prior to our interviews. It is likely that much of this ownership is illegal, although we did not examine this explicitly. Additional research is needed to determine whether current extraction rates are sustainable. This study adds to a growing body of evidence that the domestic regulation of the trade of wild species is not being addressed adequately in Madagascar.
There is a broad set of human beliefs, attitudes and behaviours around the issue of magical animals, referring to both mythical animals not recognized by science and extant animals that are recognized by science but have magical properties. This is a broad issue ranging from spiritual beliefs around mythical animals living in Malagasy forests, to cultural heritage associated with the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland. Beliefs and behaviours around magical animals can have positive and negative impacts on biodiversity conservation goals. Yet, so far, the discipline of conservation biology has not adequately considered magical animals, neglecting to account for the broader knowledge from outside the natural sciences on this issue, and taking a narrow, utilitarian approach to how magical animals should be managed, without necessarily considering the broader impacts on conservation goals or ethics. Here we explore how magical animals can influence conservation goals, how conservation biology and practice has thought about magical animals, and some of the limitations of current approaches, particularly the failure to consider magical animals as part of wider systems of belief and culture. We argue that magical animals and their implications for conservation merit wider consideration.
The Critically Endangered ploughshare tortoise Astrochelys yniphora, endemic to Madagascar, is one of the rarest tortoises. Despite its protection under Malagasy national law and featuring in Appendix I of CITES, heightened interest from reptile collectors over recent decades has expedited the scale of poaching to critical levels. Illegal traders are now turning to online retail platforms and social media to sell this species. We present data from a 5-month study conducted by TRAFFIC in 2015 of online trade in ploughshare tortoises in Indonesia during 2010–2015. We identified 88 advertisements selling 126 ploughshare tortoises from 49 sellers. Fifty-six percent of the advertisements were located on forums or online retail sites and 43% on social media. Since 2012 advertisements on social media increased steadily, to > 90% in 2015. Seventy-five percent of the advertisements were from sellers based in Indonesia, 74% of which were from Jakarta. Prices were USD 509–47,000. The internet provides Indonesian traders with a means to sell protected wildlife comparatively safely and easily. The abundance of illegally sourced ploughshare tortoises openly on offer in online trade in Indonesia highlights a disregard for the law among Indonesian importers and their exporting counterparts. A re-evaluation by CITES of Indonesia's existing legislation is necessary. Devoid of a sound legal framework and sufficient enforcement to uphold these laws, there is no deterrent for traders of ploughshare tortoises and other non-native, CITES-listed species.
Mangroves are heavily threatened globally, with fuelwood harvesting and charcoal production a growing threat in low-income nations. However, the socio-ecological dynamics of mangroves are poorly understood, especially the roles of poverty and wealth in shaping resource use. This is particularly the case with Madagascar's mangroves, which contribute 2% of global mangrove cover. We report on the use of and threats to mangroves in the Bay of Assassins in south-west Madagascar. We document the production of sokay, a sea-shell based lime produced in mangrove wood kilns and used as a render on houses to improve their durability. Lime rendered houses are considered a status symbol. Growth in the use of lime is related to a rise in income in some households, which is partly a result of the increased commodification of marine products such as octopus, seaweed and sea cucumber. These products have experienced rapid commercialization over the last decade, with fishers now supplying global markets. We also document evidence of the emergence of larger-scale lime production. The growth of lime production has major ramifications for mangrove cover. We have observed a worrying development in mangrove harvesting patterns tied to lime production, where mangrove ecosystems are cleared instead of selectively cut. We consider the implications of our findings for broader debates about the relationship between conservation, poverty and natural resource use. We highlight research priorities and discuss the policy implications of our research, especially the need for the integrated management of ecosystems.
A range of endemic and protected vertebrate species from Madagascar are threatened by the demand for bushmeat. We report on the number of discarded carapaces from illegally killed Critically Endangered radiated tortoises Astrochelys radiata in an urban centre in south-west Madagascar. Through covert monitoring of public rubbish dumps we observed 1,913 carapaces during July 2010–January 2014. There was notable spatial and temporal variation, with some evidence of peaks in carapace dumping during May–June and October–December. A single rubbish dump near the artisanal fishery landing beaches accounted for 93% of the observed carapaces.
Management and monitoring of community-based protected areas in Madagascar remain challenging because of a lack of financial, human and technical resources, and capacity. At Lake Alaotra, conversion of marshland for rice cultivation and a lack of effective habitat protection have pushed the locally endemic Alaotra gentle lemur Hapalemur alaotrensis to the brink of extinction. The highest density of the species is found in the locally managed Park Bandro, a high-priority conservation zone within the Lake Alaotra New Protected Area. We evaluated local awareness and perceptions of Park Bandro, and discussed preferred management options with local communities. Two questionnaire surveys were carried out, one with 180 participants at six sites around the lake and marsh, and another with 50 participants in the village adjacent to Park Bandro. The majority of participants knew of the existence of Park Bandro but most did not know its purpose or size. Values and perceptions of local communities were influenced by occupation and distance to the Park, with fishers being most aware of the Park. We found that local people had a high level of environmental awareness and were willing to discuss zonation and alternative resource management strategies as long as these activities could provide a tangible livelihood benefit. Lack of awareness among local resource users regarding the purpose and status of protected areas such as Park Bandro is a challenge that needs to be addressed, and one that is relevant for environmental education and management of protected areas throughout Madagascar.
Wildlife populations provide harvestable meat to people and contribute to local food security. Throughout the year, and particularly at times of agricultural food shortages, wildlife and other wild foods play a critical role in supporting food security and enhancing local human nutrition. We explored the distribution of food security benefits of agricultural food production and a particular ecosystem provisioning service – wildlife harvest in the Makira Natural Park (MNP) of Madagascar – at community, household and individual levels. We found strong variation in wildlife consumption both among communities and among households and less variation among individuals within households. Mean household wildlife consumption in the target community was 10 kg per year ranging by approximately two orders of magnitude, with poorer and more food insecure households more reliant on wildlife for food. Meats (including wildlife) appeared to be evenly distributed within households, unaffected by age, sex, birth order and body weight, while other foods (including stew, rice and other staples) appeared to be allocated based on body mass. Reductions in wildlife consumption cause increased risk of food insecurity and specific nutritional deficiencies. The findings from our multilevel study suggest that disaggregated analysis that merges ecosystem services theory and the microeconomics of resource allocation allows for a more accurate valuation approach.
The role of wild meat for subsistence or as a luxury good is debated. We investigated the role of wild meat in food security in Madagascar, where consumption is poorly understood in urban areas and at regional scales. Using semi-structured interviews (n = 1339 heads-of-households, 21 towns), we aimed to: (1) quantify the amount and purpose of, (2) understand the drivers of, and (3) examine changes in wild meat consumption. Few respondents preferred wild meat (8 ± 3%) but most had eaten it at least once in their lifetime (78 ± 7%). Consumption occurred across ethnic groups, in urban and rural settings. More food insecure areas reported higher rates of wild meat consumption in the 6–8 months prior to interviews. Consumption was best explained by individual preferences and taboos. Less than 1% of respondents had increased consumption during their lifetimes. Wild meat prices showed no change from 2005–2013. Most consumption involved wild pigs and smaller-sized animals, though they were consumed less in the years following the 2009 coup. These data illustrate the differences between urban and rural communities, the occasions in which wild meat is used a source of food security, and provide evidence that some taxa are not hunted sustainably in Madagascar.