Winner avatar
2023 Whitley Award
Mamy Razafitsalama Madagascar Terrestrial
Lifeline for lemurs: Protecting forests and livelihoods in Madagascar

Madagascar is a global conservation priority as one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It has also seen one of the most drastic forest losses, with nearly half of its natural forest cover  disappearing since the 1950s due to habitat degradation, slash and burn agriculture and fires.


Madagascar is the fourth largest island on Earth and contains a remarkable number of unique fauna and flora, with 90% of its plant species existing nowhere else. It is also home to over 110 species of lemur, of which 94% are threatened with extinction. The country’s rich fauna and flora is juxtaposed against extreme poverty and malnutrition which drives deforestation and habitat loss as the country’s people are reliant on its natural resources for survival.


In Western Madagascar, the primary driver of deforestation is fire, approximately 95% of which are caused by humans. Ankarafantsika National Park in the northwest is one of the largest remaining fragments of western primary forest but is under threat from fire, slash and burn agriculture, logging, domestic grazing and construction. It is also home to eight lemur species, five of which are threatened with extinction. Protecting the remaining continuous forests and forest fragments in the park is critical if lemurs are to stand a chance of survival.


Mamy and his team at Planet Madagascar are dedicated to finding grassroots solutions to protect their homeland’s forests and unique biodiversity. Building on previous work, they will bolster local capacity to protect the forest through ongoing patrols and maintenance of fire breaks – gaps in vegetation that act as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of forest fires. The team will also support women from the communities around the park with alternative livelihoods through a cooperative focussed on processing citrus and sugar products, reducing poverty while alleviating pressure on the forest. Lastly, Mamy and his team will grow their reach, running educational programmes, stakeholder meetings and radio broadcasts across 10 communities on the impact of fires on biodiversity, forests and people.

Using his Whitley Award, Mamy and his team will:

  • Protect 8,000 ha of forest in Ankarafantsika National Park from fire, grazing and extraction incidents through community patrols
  • Maintain over 16 km of firebreaks to limit the spread of uncontrolled fire, protecting important lemur habitat
  • Provide green livelihoods support for 35 women to alleviate poverty and reduce pressures on the forest
  • Raise awareness across 10 communities about the impact of fires on lemurs, forests, and people through educational programmes


  • There are over 110 different species of lemur in Madagascar, found nowhere else on the planet
  • It is estimated that Madagascar has lost 44% of its natural forest cover between 1953–2014
  • Lemurs are considered the world’s oldest primates, with roots tracing back over 70 million years