Madagascar: Makira-Masoala Landscape

Makira Rainforest Photo
As an island rich in biodiversity, the Makira/Masoala landscape provides sanctuary for lemurs and many other animal and plant species that exist nowhere else on Earth.
Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

The Makira-Masoala Landscape is the largest tracts of intact rainforest remaining in Madagascar, an area of more than 2,500 square miles cradling a vast ocean bay. More than half of the country’s floral diversity is found in these hilly forests, including 60 different species of palms. This pristine area is home to critically endangered species like the Madagascar serpent eagle, the fox-size carnivore known as the fossa, and the silky sifaka, one of the world’s most endangered primates. It’s also the only wild spot to find red-ruffed lemurs, which inhabit Masoala’s tall fruit trees.

Once a part of the African continent, Madagascar drifted into the Indian Ocean more than 100 million years ago. On this isolated island, animals and plants evolved without outside interferences, including that of humans. As a result, Madagascar provides sanctuary for many types of plants and animals that exist nowhere else on Earth. Protecting Makira-Masoala is crucial to maintaining the island’s status as a global hotspot for biodiversity. More than 1 percent of the world’s species reside here.

Fast Facts

  • These rainforests are a vital source of water for more than 150,000 local residents.
  • High densities of rare and valuable hardwoods grow in the forests, including 25 species of ebony and Malagasy rosewood.
  • These largely isolated forests provide the island’s top predator, the fossa, with the wide spaces it needs.


Madagascar’s human population grows by 3 percent annually, putting enormous pressure on the island’s natural resources. The island has lost all but about 15 percent of its forests to slash-and-burn agriculture practices called “tavy” and illicit logging of precious hardwoods. Deforestation poses a serious threat to the survival of local plant and animal species; without trees, the land’s shallow soils and steep slopes quickly become eroded and exhausted, incapable of supporting life. Mining and the trapping and hunting of numerous forest mammal species, including lemurs and bats, as well as birds, also threaten this unique habitat.

WCS Responds

WCS has created a community-managed forest zone of nearly 700,000 acres in collaboration with local residents. This green belt buffers the protected forest area and serves as a model for sustainable resource use and conservation. Here, local residents learn about intensified rice production and other Earth-friendly farming practices, like the cultivation of vanilla, cloves, and silk. They also participate in projects to create tree nurseries, manage watersheds, and develop ecotourism. This gives local communities viable economic alternatives to destructive practices such as mining and burning down forest habitat for rice cultivation. WCS is also training park guards to effectively enforce the laws and successfully protect the Makira-Masoala forest complex. Our goal is to ensure this landscape can continue to support its spectacular wildlife and their habitats.

WCS Projects

Makira REDD+ Project

In collaboration with the government of Madagascar, WCS’s Makira REDD+ Project will help finance the long-term conservation of one of Madagascar’s most pristine remaining rainforests, home to rare and threatened biodiversity. It will also help enhance the economic wellbeing of neighboring communities.

From the Newsroom

Carbon Credits on Sale in Madagascar to Preserve EcosystemSeptember 17, 2013

WCS is proud to partner with the government of Madagascar on an innovative project to help preserve Makira Natural Park.

More than 5,700 Got Bugged on Valentine's DayFebruary 15, 2011

To be precise, 5,707 romantics named a Madagascar hissing cockroach on behalf of their loved ones for Valentine's Day, raising a collective $57,070 to save wildlife and wild places around the world.

WCS Applauds Passage of American Clean Energy and Security Act in House of RepresentativesJune 26, 2009

New Hope for ForestsMay 21, 2009

WCS applauds the inclusion of forestry provisions in the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which paves the way to comprehensive climate change policy.

On Sale in Madagascar: CarbonJune 4, 2008

To save Madagascar’s pristine forests and combat climate change, WCS and the government of Madagascar agree to launch a massive carbon sale, totaling more than nine million tons.

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