The Ankaratra, a huge massif not far from the capital Antananarivo, is an inactive/ dormant volcano and one of the highest summits of Madagascar (2642 m, Tsiafajavona peak). Originally covered by high altitude forests the Ankaratra Massif is currently highly degraded and deforested. Anyhow, the vegetation of the massif still contains remnants of primary rainforest which are mainly located along the eastern slopes at elevations of 1,700-2,000 m a.s.l. These forests and the streams that cross them host two critically endangered high mountain frogs, which are Boophis williamsi and Mantidactylus pauliani, beside other endemics, such as the lizard Lygodactylus williamsii and Calumma hilleniusii and it was recently included into the system of new protected areas in Madagascar.
In October 2010 the exotic forest (mainly composed by pines) and the high mountain savanna were burned (following a series of political events and misunderstandings with local villagers). Moreover, illicit charcoal exploitation led to a heavy degradation of around half of the whole forest surface. Luckily enough, the original natural forest parcels remained intact. This raised serious concerns about the conservation strategies to adopt for the peculiar high altitude biota, including the two critically endangered frogs. A process of species monitoring, securisation and fundraising was initiated by the ASG Madagascar and Conservation International. The current funding was assured by the MacArthur Foundation for a 3-years period (2011-2013) and attributed to the main partner represented by the Association VIF, which was charged to be the main actor of the Ankaratra.
The project included the following activities:
1) Installation of the administrative structure of the new management of the new protected area under the umbrella of the Regional Direction of Environment and Forest of Vakinankaratra Regioni. The officialisation process was achieved in 2011 for eight Basic Local Communities (BLC), each playing a specific role. The management activities under this structure have been started in September 2011. Their activities the patrolling for site securing, the forestry cleaning and the forestry restoration;
2) The survey of Boophis williamsii and Mantidactylus pauliani was carried out in collaboration with the ASG and the University of Antananarivo, involving two master students for the first six months and one PhD for the next two years;
3) The forestry restoration and water sources protection is a component under the collaboration with the local association named Lalona and based in Ambatolampy. This association is in charge of the training on tree nursery and on internal administration management. Each BLC has for the year 2011 one tree nursery and planted about 10,000 trees each until now;
4) The income generated activities is under the role of the VIF Association and start with a fishery initiative. The capacity building on the breeding techniques were done in 2011 and six fish ponds are actually distributed in four BLCs.
5) The process of the new protected area is at the stage of the “temporary protection” document that is actually deposited to the Direction of Environment and Forest after acceptance from the District of Ambatolampy and Vakinankaratra Region;
6) The sensitizing activities starting during the public consultations for Simplified Environmental Impact studies and some leaflets are actually printed and will be distributed to the BLC, Schools and the main administrative responsible of the district, region and local stakeholders like the main water distributor in Ambatolampy (JIRAMA), the NBM (New Brewery of Madagascar) both using the water source from Ankaratra New Protected Area, the local guide associations using the forest for tourist’s trekking
The other activities concern the reinforcement of awareness, reforestation and site securing, development of the income generated activities, framing of the BLCs to an autonomous management skill and the threatened frogs and habitat surveys. The process of the definitive Protected Area will include the complete inventory of the fauna and flora and the socio-economical studies that will complete the document of the Definitive Environmental Impacts Studies sorting a definitive management map and documents to be validated and deposited to the competent institutions.