The government of Madagascar created the island nation’s largest protected area: the Makira Natural Park is home to the highest diversity of lemur species on the planet. Located in northeastern Madagascar, it contains the country’s largest swath of rainforest in an area covering 372,470 hectares (1,438 square miles). It is estimated that Makira, the adjacent Masoala National Park, and the rest of the Antongil Bay watershed together is the island’s richest region in terms of sheer biodiversity.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, which has led efforts to safeguard Makira for more than a decade, the new park represents an important milestone toward achieving the country’s Durban Vision, a plan formulated by Madagascar in 2003 to safeguard 10 percent of Madagascar’s natural lands.
The park (created by decree number 2012 – 641 and signed on June 19) contains 20 of the island’s 103 species of lemurs, a unique group of primates (relatives of apes, monkeys, and humans) found only in Madagascar. Makira’s lemur species include the red-ruffed lemur (found only in the forests of Makira and Masoala Parks) and the silky sifaka, recently discovered in Makira’s mid-altitude forests and one of the 25 most endangered primates on the planet. In addition to protecting lemurs, Makira Natural Park will ensure the conservation of many other species, including what is thought to be the largest population of Madagascar’s only large predator, the cat-like fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) that eats lemurs and requires very large areas of intact forest to maintain healthy populations.