Species Extinction in Madagascar

Madagascar, off the eastern coast of Africa, is a very unique and extremely biodiverse island that is home to over 200,000 different species.  The island contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity and between 80% and 90% of the species found in Madagascar are found nowhere else on earth. There is, unfortunately, an increasing number of endangered and critically endangered species living in Madagascar. Their populations are impacted by human activity, deforestation, and climate change.

             Lemurs, primates that are only found in Madagascar, are an especially threatened species and are considered one of the most threatened species of mammals on earth. There are 107 different species of lemurs found in Madagascar, and of the 107 different species, 103 are threatened, and 33 are critically endangered. Deforestation is the driving factor in the increasing list of endangered species in Madagascar, along with the hunting of lemurs for their meat. Other species only found in Madagascar are threatened by the international wildlife trade which is the second biggest threat to endangered species after habitat loss.

 Human activity has affected the animals, leaving many species endangered as well as facing threats that include climate change, invasive species, overharvesting, habitat loss, and deforestation. Deforestation has created an uncertain future for the people and animal species that call Madagascar home. Almost half of Madagascar’s forests have been destroyed between 1953 and 2014, destroying the habitat of thousands of animals and leading their species deeper into endangerment.

The deforestation and extinction of many species affects more than just the local ecosystem. The people of Madagascar will also be in trouble if the forests are destroyed and there are not enough animals to provide an adequate food supply. People depend on the forests to provide them with food, plants to be used as medicine, shelter, energy, soil protection, and much more. The animals call the forest home and without it, they would go extinct. With a growing population, there is demand for more food, leading to unsustainable farming practices that require large areas of land for the production of food.  The production of food has been more important than environmental protection due to the need to feed the growing population. This demand for food led the country to develop unsustainable farming practices. Ancient farming practices where forests are burned for crops and left to regrow for years after are no longer sustainable in Madagascar due to the increase of product demand per year. There is no longer the amount of forest space left to practice this type of agriculture on a large scale and allow time for forests to regrow before being used again. Research shows that if sustainable methods for farming are not implemented there will be long-term negative impacts that affect food production. Lemurs are hunted for food in some places of Madagascar because there is not access to affordable meat. Decreasing lemur populations will potentially lead to even more food security issues in the country.

The island is at risk of losing 30% of its species by the end of the twenty-first century. The island’s populations of fish, mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles have decreased by 58% from 1970 to 2012. 

Gold on the Next Frontier for War on Terror

When the term ‘radical jihadist’ is thrown around the seemingly never ending Middle Eastern conflicts pops into mind. Though in recent years a new jihadist threat has been brewing in the African Sahel. The Sahel, is a region of central Africa that closely borders the Sahara Desert, it spans across the countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania (this is a non exhaustive list). The U.S. military has been referring to the Sahel more and more as “the new front in the war on terrosism”.  

The war in this region has been growing rapidly. Jihadist groups killed “ten times more people were killed in 2014.” Two main groups of jihadists are involved: the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS); and Jama’at Nasar al-Islam wal Musllimin (JNIM) which is closley linked with al-Qaeda.  

 The insurgent groups have lost ground in the Middle East, and are now expanding in Africa. This takes funding. Many African countries are large exporters of gold. These terrorist groups are readily gaining control over gold mines and making money off of them, effectively funding the groups for the long term.  

Burkina Faso has an official gold industry though black market mining produces far more gold. “Just 2% of Burkina Faso’s gold output is exported through official channels”.  Most of the informally produced gold in Burkina Faso is smuggled into neighboring countries, particularly Togo. The gold is then passed to larger countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Switzerland, and India for further processing and distribution. 

Gold has historically been an optimal currency for insurgents, because it retains its value and is widely accepted as a currency in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. 

William Linder, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer who served is West Africa, states, “Violent extremists have extended their areas of control and have enhanced their ability to generate income through gold – while state actors remain poorly positioned to do anything about it. Failure to fix this problem now will only deepen and help spread the Sahel crisis.”  

While it might not be highly publicized in the media, there is already foreign involvement in the region, with some 5,100 French troops, 1,200 U.S. troops, and 15,000 UN blue helmets on the ground. With American forces leaving Afghanistan, the Sahel will soon be the West’s biggest combat zone.

Many gold mines have been shut down by the government because they are on nature preserves, and serve as a threat to the wildlife. This subsequently leaves many men jobless, and without a reliable income. One of the ways that the insurgent groups are winning over locals is by allowing them to mine in these protected areas. “In a country (Burkina Faso) with annual incomes of just $660 a head according to the World Bank, government efforts to close off mines to individual diggers – whether for conservation or to make way for big business – are unpopular.”  

In order to gain more support with native people JNIM and ISGS have framed their messages as “fighting a neo-colonial enemy bent on stealing Africa’s riches”. The radical jihadists have also fitted there narrative to local situations, “reflecting some of the concerns of the diverse ethnic groups, Tuaregs, Arabs/Moors and black African Fulani and Songhai.” 

A variable further complicating the issue is that government forces have been extremely rough with local populations, leading many people to lean toward the terrorists’ cause. “This year, more civilians in the Sahel have been killed by government soldiers than by jihadists, says José Luengo-Cabrera of the International Crisis Group (icg), a Brussels-based NGO.”  President Roch Marc Christian Kaborè of Burkina Faso privately remarked that some of his citizens would feel safer living amongst the various terrorist groups as opposed to the government’s security forces.

To make matters worse, the jihadists are gaining control in three different directions. To the south the insurgent groups threaten Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo. In the west there have been attacks in Mali in close proximity to its border with Senegal. Towards the east with Nigeria’s insurgent groups. “The jihadists already have a “de facto safe haven in northern Mali”, says General Dagvin Anderson”.

 In Mali there are growing calls for negotiations with the jihadists. The Mali government has extended an offer to talk with JNIM, the group has agreed once foreign troops have left, though this is unlikely. Though the jihadists have little incentive to negotiate while they are winning on the frontline . 

As many western forces pull out of the Middle East, the fight against radical  jihadists grows in the Sahel. There is no easy solution, and the immediate future seems murky.