Madagascar Moves to Protect Unique Birds
The Mahavavy-Kinkony wetland is home to the Madagascar Teal, Sakalava Rail, Madagascar Sacred Ibis and Madagascar Pond Heron, which are all unique to the island.
The northwest area is also a last refuge of the Madagascar Fish Eagle, whose numbers have dwindled to just 220 birds.
"One of Madagascar's most spectacular wildlife areas -- almost 3,000 square kilometres of tropical wetlands, forests, savannas and caves -- is to be protected by law," BirdLife International said in a statement late on Monday.
It said the government granted the area two years' protected status as a first step towards declaring permanent protection.
"This is a particularly important milestone for conservation in Madagascar because these are the first large freshwater wetlands to be protected that also support a significant and dependent human population," Vony Raminoarisoa, director of BirdLife's Madagascar Programme, said in the statement.
In 2003, Malagasy President Marc Ravalomanana vowed to expand the island nation's protected areas to 6 million hectares by 2008 from 1.7 million hectares to preserve the its unique and threatened wildlife.
BirdLife said the decree came into effect this week.
The world's fourth biggest island, Madagascar broke away from the African mainland some 160 million years ago, leaving its flora and fauna to evolve in splendid isolation.
More than 90 percent of its mammals are found nowhere else, for example, but Madagascar has lost as much as 90 percent of its original forest, depriving its wildlife of crucial habitats.