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weLOG #31 A Trip to Madagascar

Madagascar! That’s right! It’s a travel time! We’re about to explore the world’s fourth largest island (the size of 587,000 km2 (226,640 sq mi), which is a similar area to the state of Texas in the United States or France) and one of the most biodiverse and unique places on this planet. It is blessed with rich ecosystems important to many endangered species, including tropical rainforest areas and mangrove forests along the coast.

Aye-Aye - the biggest nocturnal primate, endemic to Madagascar


Now, why are we going there together? The reason is that weMORI has a tree-planting project there and there’s quite a bit to share about that, HOWEVER, first things first! Let’s explore the world of Madagascar, explore it a bit, and get familiar with some of the extraordinary species present there (and nowhere else!!) before we go into the project conversation.

Satanic leaf-tailed gecko


Out of all the species present on the island, over 90% of them are endemic.

Let’s have a look at some specifics here:

  • 70% of the flora

  • over 90% of all vertebrae

  • 90% of all reptiles

  • over 60% of birds

  • all terrestrial snails

  • three-fourths of orchid species

  • 6 of 7 world’s baobab species (only one baobab kind is found in Africa)

  • and lastly, all of the lemur species

It’s quite mind-boggling, isn’t it?

Fossa - the largest carnivore and top predator that feeds on lemurs


Since the arrival of humans, all megafauna of Madagascar has vanished - including lemurs the size of a grown gorilla, elephant birds, the world’s largest known bird, weighing even up to 860 kg (1,900 pounds), and many others. As time went by, human activities continued impacting the island's natural world - since 1950, Madagascar has lost more than 50% of its forests. The expansion of agricultural land, timber production, charcoal production, pasture development, etc., are the causes of the extinction and decline of many species, including endemic flora and fauna.

Lemurs are some of Madagascar's most commonly recognized species; or rather one particular one, the ring-tailed lemur (8).

There are, however, 50 different kinds of lemurs, 10 of which are critically endangered, 7 are endangered and 19 are considered vulnerable.

In the picture above:

  • Red-bellied lemur (1)

  • Fork-crowned lemur (2)

  • Red ruffed lemur (3)

  • Indri (4)

  • Madame Berthe's Mouse lemur (5)

  • Silky sifaka (6)

  • Golden bamboo lemur (7)

  • Ring-tailed lemur (8)

  • Milne-Edwards' Sportive lemur (9)

Interestingly the information I came across stated that the name 'lemur' comes from the Latin word lemures, which means 'spirits of the night' or 'ghosts'. Now, have a look at those pictures again :)

Panther Chameleon, also native to Madagascar


teaMORI SPOTLIGHT


If you were in charge of climate change-related communication, would you go about it differently than what you see right now?


Kenny:

“My focus would be an education campaign. Educate people on the situation. We use the terms climate crisis and climate change but many people simply don’t understand what that means. We throw numbers around and these are all abstract and people cannot understand or relate. My goal would be to educate people. A series of short videos, scripts, etc, to bring the message across. I would even do so in the form of animation/comics so we can reach children. If we are able to have children start thinking about their behaviour and how it affects not just themselves, then they grow into adults that are more conscious and that’s a brighter future for all.”


Swetha:

“I personally think the present narratives are not convincing the public. Although climate change's impacts and consequences are portrayed perfectly, it's hard to convince people who don't experience the direct impacts. So, I want to find a reason for people to actually care about climate change and focus on it although right now I don't have a clear picture of what it is.”


If you had the power to make one wish that could alter the global state of the planet, what would that wish be?


Kenny:

"That’s difficult because there are so many different facets to consider. I guess I'd have to say clamp down on companies that try to find loopholes to gain economic advantage at the expense of the environment and its people. People need to prioritize the environment and sustainability rather than wealth and living only for the current generation."


Swetha:

“It relates to the previous answer, but I will wish for all people to be conscious of their actions because I believe we will be able to change the current state if we all change right now."

AROUND THE WORLD 🌏

by Kenny


DRIVING OUR WAY TO A CO2-FREE FUTURE

Countries in the European Union have agreed to stop selling new cars that emit C02. The target for this is 2023. This new climate policy will help to achieve zero CO2 emissions from 2035 and lower emissions by 55% by 2030.

However, not all countries are onboard and some are skeptical about the policy and fear it will lead to repercussions such as increased car prices. The European Union has agreed to create an alternate agreement post-2035 for the continuation of cars that can only run on e-fuels.


LESS IS NOT ALWAYS MORE

Fewer trees mean less rain. Isn’t this a known fact? New research shows that reduced rainfall in the tropics results from deforestation.

There have been reports that the climate gets hotter and drier when trees are cut down, but until now there wasn’t a clear link made between this and deforestation.

Professor Dominick Spracklen, from the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds who supervised the project, said: "Local people living near deforested regions often report a hotter and drier climate after the forests are cleared. But until now this effect had not been seen in rainfall observations.

The reduction in rainfall impacts those living in the tropics but the ecosystems in different ways.


PLANTING TREES IS NOT THE ANSWER

When we think of Brazil and deforestation, we think of the Amazon but the Cerrado, the second-largest Brazilian biome, has become an area of concern as well. More than 50% of the Cerrado has been deforested and is now getting more attention and so ideas are coming in for restoration.

The solutions being suggested are mostly centered on planting trees in degraded areas. But experts say this may not be the best option given it is a grassland, not a degraded forest. Reforesting with trees would change the environment and traits of the Cerrado.

Planting trees is not always the answer. Forests can be restored by planting trees but grasslands cannot be restored in the same way.

WHAT WE'RE READING

  • Allegations for exaggerated climate claims on the world’s leading purveyor of offsets, South Pole Read here

  • Malaysia’s new carbon market, Bursa Carbon Exchange, disappoints Read here

  • The AI technology to create a more accurate and transparent car on credits Read here

  • Nearly $10 Million investment in reforestation Read here

  • Costa Rica ponders ways to sustain reforestation success Read here




There you have it, dear friends!


Let us appreciate the richness, uniqueness, and extraordinary beauty of the world we live in - today through Madagascar's lens.


Till next time!


Joanna Arai


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cover photo by Frank Vassen on flickr

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