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An extensive late Quaternary fauna, including many extinct giant lemurs, has been collected recently in a 110+-km system of caves in the Ankarana Massif of northern Madagascar. AMS 14C dates for the acid-insoluble (collagen/gelatin) fraction of bones of the giant lemur Megaladapis (26,150 ± 400 and 12,760 ± 70 yr B.P.) confirm its presence in the area during the late Pleistocene and provide the first Pleistocene 14 C ages from bones of the extinct megafauna of the island. The first date from bones of the recently described extinct Babakotia radofilai (4400 ± 60 yr B.P.) shows that it was present in northern Madagascar in mid-Holocene times. A comparatively recent age of 1020 ± 50 yr B.P. for the extinct Archaeolemur indicates survival of this genus for at least a millennium after the first direct evidence for humans in Madagascar. This suggests that the island's "extinction window" may have represented a longer time span than would have been expected under the Blitzkrieg model of late Quaternary extinctions. A mid-Holocene age (4560 ± 70 yr B.P.) for a bone sample of the small extant lemur Hapalemur simus indicates that the disappearance of this now-restricted species from the Ankarana occurred after this date. New data from the Ankarana and other sites on the island add to the consensus that major biotic changes occurred on Madagascar in the late Holocene.
Madagascar's biodiversity is of extremely high international significance, yet comprehensive efforts to assess current knowledge and set priorities have been absent until recently. Beginning in April 1995, a major participatory effort to assess the country's scientific and conservation priorities was undertaken in Madagascar. This process laid important groundwork for the revision of Madagascar's National Environmental Action Plan. The first stage of the process was a scientific priority-setting workshop. Over one hundred experts, organized in thematic groups, reached consensus on biodiversity priorities for the island, based on cross-discipline comparisons. A principal finding of the workshop is that many areas of outstanding biodiversity and research importance are located outside protected areas. Participants also agreed that corridors needed to be created between the high-priority protected areas in order to maintain gene flow and exchange of species. The second stage of the process was a stakeholder consultation which integrated scientific findings, national priorities, local stakeholder views, and donor input. The stakeholder consultation concluded that a collaborative, regional approach was needed to augment site-based conservation activities. Participants also emphasized that institutional strengthening in forestry and parks agencies needed much higher priority. The net result of the process was the adoption of a landscape approach to conservation which integrates regional planning, biodiversity monitoring and institutional strengthening.
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