Published: Wednesday 30 April 1997

Sun-kissed sands and fisherfolk cracking coconuts at the edge of palm-fringed villages - this could very well be another day in Paradise! But the truth is that Madagascar's ecology is just living on the edge. The world's fourth largest island today has as much as 90 per cent of its tropical forest reduced by shifting agriculture to barren hills and scrubby vegetation.

Josephine Andrews, a primate researcher from Scotland, came to Nosy Be island - off the northwest coast of Madagascar - eight years ago, to study the black lemur. She runs the Black Forest Lemur Project from Ampangorinina, a village on Nosy Komba, an adjacent island. Recently, the government of Madagascar has expressed its desire to designate a 700-ha patch of virgin rainforest on Nosy Be as a national park, much to Andrews' chagrin. She insists that local people be involved in eco-tourism and conservation activities, since the villagers have little scope to extend their traditional subsistence agriculture."We want the national park only if local people are going to benefit," said Amisy Achimo of Maradoka village, Nosy Be. Andrews also pointed out rampant illegal felling of ebony trees in Madagascar.

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