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.