Farewell Madagascar …

There is this awful sense that if you don’t see it soon you won’t see it at all. Madagascar, a crucible of evolution in isolation, is losing its distinct suite of habitats. Virtually every lemur species is endangered.
Threats to Madagascar’s biodiversity and ecosystems
  1. Deforestation and habitat destruction.
  2. Agricultural fires.
  3. Erosion and soil degradation.
  4. Overexploitation of living resources including hunting and over-collection of species from the wild.
  5. Introduction of alien species.

You can read all about it at wildmadagascar.org

How did it come to this?

The industrial revolution has hardly touched this place. At every turn you see people at work, not machines at work. People dig fields with shovels, not tractors. They carry or pull their loads. They make crushed rock by taking a hammer and cold chisel to large chunks of granite.

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The majority of homes are not connected to an electricity supply.

When it comes to their carbon footprint the Malagasy lead exemplary lives. Their environment is going to hell in a handcart.

It is worth noting that the main source of cooking fuel is charcoal. That’s what the guy has on his back in the sack capped with grass to stop it falling out. That’s what the wood in the photo below is destined to become. The two men have dragged the three wheel cart up the hill. The journey down is gravity assisted and not without hazard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACharcoal is a renewable.

The European Union gives its blessing to burning an American forest in one of England’s power stations. Renewable … but it would require the consumption of the entirety of British forests to keep it going and it would not be renewed in our grandchildren’s lifetime.

Conservation is the privilege of affluent nations. For poor nations survival is the only priority. Energy poverty is not the saviour of our world.

Plains Wanderer …

The Plains Wanderer is a little ground dwelling bird which has, as its closest relatives, the Seedsnipes of South America, a clue to its Gondwanan origins. It’s very cute and sadly very endangered.

It was found to be doing quite well on some farmland in the vicinity of Terrick Terrick National Park. This was on country that had never been sown to improved pasture and had been grazed by sheep for many, many years. Quite a lot of farmland was purchased and added to the park to conserve the bird. It had been well studied by this stage and the scientific advice to Parks Victoria was to continue a grazing regime.

Parks knew better, the sheep came off.

Dr Mark Antos has been studying the Plains Wanderer in the Park over recent years and has documented their catastrophic decline. They require low herb and grass with about 50% bare ground to do well. Two years of high rainfall and no grazing has turned the environment into something entirely unsuitable. Their plight made the Weekly Times recently which tells us …

… no Plains Wanderers had been seen as part of bi-monthly surveys since March 2011.

Meanwhile, it is my understanding that another researcher, working on private land, has continued to find the little buggers on land that is being grazed. In other words they’re better off outside the park than they are on land purchased with public money for their conservation.

Today, though, some good news. In the survey conducted this weekend one Wanderer was caught and banded. One hopes it signals the beginning of a recovery.