Madagascar is the world’s fourth largest island and a top biodiversity hotspot. 80% of Madagascar’s plants and animals are endemic. Unfortunately, more than 90% of Madagascar’s original forest cover has been lost since humans arrived, only a few thousand years ago. Sahamalaza – Radama Islands National Park, in Madagascar’s northwest, is one of the newest and least developed national parks in the country. The terrestrial ecosystem consists of semi-humid, low-altitude forest. Critically endangered blue-eyed black lemurs are the flagship species. Other lemurs (Sahamalaza sportive lemur, northern giant mouse lemur, and the fat-tailed dwarf lemur) also live there. There are also rare species of reptiles and amphibians. Eight species of mangroves are found along the coast, where rare birds such as the Madagascar sacred ibis and Madagascar fish eagle live. The marine ecosystem is less well known but contains remarkable corals, sea turtles, dugongs, and sometimes whales.
The people of Ambolobozo, one of the most influential and largest villages bordering the park, have been working on a variety of environmental projects with the Association Européenne pour l’Étude et la Conservation des Lémuriens and the Volamaitso Community Association. The community has agreed to cease all habitat disturbances in the 250-hectare (618-acre) Ankarafa forest in the park for 15 years. The Ankarafa forest is an isolated parcel of primary forest. It is under heavy threat from slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging, hunting, and trapping.
In return, Seacology is funding a new school and restroom block. Local people say that the dilapidated condition of their primary school is one of their biggest problems. Everyone agrees that a new school will be a powerful motivator for renewed conservation of this area.