There has now been a realisation that conservation of Madagascar’s natural environment is vital to the island’s wellbeing and survival. Ecotourism is fast becoming a staple of the island’s economy and National Parks have been set up to protect the unique flora and fauna. Only a small portion of the island is currently protected (around 3%) with a total of 22 National Parks and reserves. Most of these are relatively isolated leaving the land around them still unprotected. There have been pledges to triple the amount of protected land on the island in the next ten years however the need for conservation must also be balanced with the needs of the local people.
There has been considerable foreign investment in conservation projects on the island in recent years which helps to preserve the natural flora and fauna. Improvements in existing agricultural methods and sustainable harvesting of renewable forest products will also contribute to conservation. Some of these products raise money for the island through their sale to international markets such as vanilla or for medicinal purposes. Ecotourism is probably the best way forward for sustainability in Madagascar with half of all visitors now going to see a protected area during their stay. Park entrance fees and hiring of local guides as well as sales of local crafts and other jobs in the tourist industry benefits the local economy as well as the environment as the tourists pay to see the natural beauty of the island. Restoring damaged ecosystems must also be a long term goal. It is important that the protection of the reserves and National Parks be adhered to with consistent enforcement of the conservation laws. Hopefully this will continue to be the case with clamping down on illegal logging, hunting and collection of animals for sale.
When we compare the UK with Madagascar we can see countless differences between our two countries. Much smaller than Madagascar, the UK is the 80th largest country in the world compared with Madagascar’s rating as 47th largest. Its location between the North Sea and North Atlantic result in a temperate climate with some variations because of altitude and distance from the sea, although the island is slightly warmer than other countries on the same latitude due to the Gulf Stream. Most of the landscape is low lying although there are some upland and mountainous areas.
Although there are some endemic species in the UK, their numbers are significantly fewer than those found in Madagascar. There are more endemic sub-species however. The UK has no endemic mammal species although there are some subspecies indigenous to the island. These include the Scottish wildcat, the St Kilda fieldmouse and the Irish hare. As of 1999 there were 47 species of plant that were endemic to the UK and there are a few species of insects that can only be found in the British Isles including the Lundy cabbage flea beetle and the Scilly bee.