Character & Entrepreneurial Conservation

A diadem sifaka, a type of lemur, in northern Madagascar. Erik Vance/The New York Times

Erik Vance, whose work I have not seen in more than three years, caught my attention again this week. Then it was in National Geographic and from my perch in Belize his story had an obvious connection to my location. This story, in the New York Times, is read from a perch in Costa Rica. My perspective, as ever, is influenced by the search for examples of entrepreneurial conservation. I am happy to read about this one full of interesting characters, in a country I have yet to visit, where there is resonance with some of my experience in Costa Rica. Creative people, knowing that the country’s public conservation commitments have their limits, achieve remarkable conservation goals through private reserves that add to the public good. The section describing a small park with big potential could have also been written about Seth’s workplace last year:

In Madagascar, Endangered Lemurs Find a Private Refuge

Climate change is shifting the habitats of endangered species and requiring conservation scientists to think outside traditional park boundaries.

Sambava, Madagascar — Madagascar has always been one of the best places on Earth to study the natural world. Seventy percent of its species are found nowhere else — the largest concentration of endemic wildlife anywhere. In the last 10 years alone, scientists have discovered 40 new mammals, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles, 42 invertebrates and 385 plants in the country. Its parks are ecotourism destinations and points of national pride.

With the world’s largest concentration of endangered species, Madagascar is also a leading place to study extinction. Last year the country lost the greatest percentage of primary forest, making it one of the most deforested places on Earth. Since 2012 the International Union for Conservation of Nature has named lemurs, which are found only in Madagascar, as the world’s most endangered group of animals, with 95 percent either threatened or endangered.

Poaching, farming, charcoal cultivation and illegal logging have placed enormous pressure on the country’s wildlife. The next looming danger is climate change; in Madagascar and across the world, warming temperatures threaten to push wildlife out of the conservation areas created to protect it. The land that was set aside yesterday might not be right for tomorrow, requiring scientists to think outside traditional park borders.

“Parks and large tracts of land are the core of how we save stuff,” said Timothy Male, the executive director of a Washington, D.C., think tank called the Environmental Policy Innovation Center. But, he added, small, local parks “tend to be where a lot of dynamism happens.”…

Read the whole article here.

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