- Title: Madagascar forest destruction wiping out humans' tiniest relative
- Date: 6th September 2019
- Summary: KIRINDY FOREST, MADAGASCAR (RECENT) (REUTERS) SPORTIF LEMUR EMERGING FROM TREE TRUNK WHITE LEMUR CLIMBING ALONG BRANCH VARIOUS OF LEMURS WALKING ON FOREST FLOOR VARIOUS OF BURNT BAOBAB IN SLASH AND BURN CLEARING BURNT TREES WHITE SNAIL SHELL AND BURNT MAIZE HUSK MAIZE FARMERS, PHROSALIA SORIANA AND SONLINDE NATHALY, WALKING THROUGH FIELD CHILD'S FACE NATHALY CUTTING A ROOT VEGETABLE SORIANA SITTING WITH A CHILD (SOUNDBITE) (Malagassy) MAIZE FARMER, SONLINDE NATHALY, SAYING: "It's famine in our region. We had to eat cactus, mango, from the morning to the evening. We can't stand famine any more so finally we had to sell our land to get money. And then we arrived here in Lombokely." (SOUNDBITE) (Malagassy) MAIZE FARMER, PHROSALIA SORIANA, SAYING: "The people who are in charge of the forest tell us that we are doing wrong. On the one hand they are right because the forest is nature; it's God's creation. But on the other hand, as a human being, it nourishes us. That's how it works here." CHILDREN PLAYING ON CART IN FRONT OF A PILE OF MAIZE MAIZE CHILDREN IN CART FAMILY WALKING THROUGH FIELD IN FRONT OF DENUDED FOREST PILE OF CORN HUSKS ANTANARIVO, MADAGASCAR (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CONSERVATION NGO FANAMBY, TIANA ANDRIAMANANA, SAYING: "So we know for sure that 50 tonnes are registered as an official production from the Menabe region, and the rest is obviously illegal. Everybody sees the trucks of maize coming back and forth, usually at night, but nobody really records them, takes pictures of them or take notes of where they go." KIRINDY FOREST, MADAGASCAR (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF GREY MOUSE LEMURS (SOUNDBITE) (English) LEMUR SPECIALIST, GERMAN PRIMATE CENTRE, MATHIAS MARKOLF, SAYING: "We do not find Berthe at the moment in places where we found it before, and we are still not sure if that is a shift of the population or if it is really a decline." STALKS OF MAIZE IN BURNT CLEARING BURNT STUMP OF TREE SNAKE CROSSES PATH AERIAL SHOT OF BAOBAB (MUTE) LEMURS PLAYING IN A TREE AERIAL SHOT OF BURNT FOREST CLEARING
- Embargoed: 20th September 2019 12:00
- Keywords: Amazon fire Maize farming Kirindy forest Conservation Global warming
- Location: KIRINDY FOREST AND ANTANARIVO, MADAGASCAR
- City: KIRINDY FOREST AND ANTANARIVO, MADAGASCAR
- Country: Madagascar
- Topics: Environment,Nature/Wildlife,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA001AVIRUBR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: As a shocked world watches fires ravage the Amazon, slash-and-burn farmers are wreaking proportionally worse destruction half a world away in Madagascar, driving humanity's smallest relative - the Madame Berthe's mouse lemur - to extinction.
Frustrated conservationists hope Friday's (September 6) arrival of the environmentally-conscious Pope Francis will spotlight the island that lost 2% of primary rainforest last year, the highest of any tropical nation according to the World Resources Institute.
The Kirindy forest, on the west of the island, spans 100,000 hectares (245,000 acres) but has lost almost half its size in two decades. Wastelands of blackened stumps are broken only by scorched trunks and twisted boughs of baobab trees resistant to fires.
Kirindy is home to a multitude of rare species, including the tiny Madame Berthe's mouse lemur, the world's smallest primate, which only exists there. Bug-eyed and weighing just 35 grams (1.25 ounces), the lemur's habitat may be completely destroyed in three years, according to Toto Volahy, a researcher from Dureell Wildlife Conservation Trust.
Matthias Markolf, a lemur specialist at the German Primate Centre in Kirindy, has not spotted it for two years.
With more than 80% of its species native, Madagascar has more unique plants and animals than the rest of Africa together.
But as well as farmers' fires, the island is facing increasingly powerful storms and extended droughts at the sharp edge of global climate change.
When a 2016 harvest failed in the south, thousands of farmers migrated to the west - to Kirindy - accelerating the forest's destruction.
Unscrupulous businessmen linked to local politicians pay around 50,000 ariary ($13.40) for every hectare of forest cleared, say village elders. It is backbreaking labour, but there is no shortage of workers in a nation where 90 percent of people survive on less than $2 per day.
After trees are felled, the area is torched to clear land for maize. Middlemen take the crops to big cities, where the kernels become untraceable, potentially entering the supply chain for big companies.
Now the wooden houses cluster forlornly in a barren landscape. The shallow soils are worn out after three harvests of maize and peanuts, driving farmers further into the forest.
In the past nine months, the government has made some efforts to slow the destruction, arresting several farmers and destroying corn in the protected area.
But bigger players remain free.
Prosecutors want to go after politicians involved and big companies that buy the maize.
But Andrianirina Francis, deputy prosecutor for Menabe region, said building a case is hard because farmers' maize crops are mixed before being sold on.
According to Francis, big companies that buy maize, like the STAR group, the national brewery, have a responsibility to know their suppliers.
French beverage company Castel bought STAR in 2011. STAR is also Coca-Cola's bottling Madagascar partner.
STAR declined to comment.
Castel and Coca-Cola did not respond to requests for comment.
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