MacArthur has announced four grants totaling $1.6 million in support of conservation and sustainable development efforts in Madagascar.

As a result of its relative isolation, Madagascar has an extraordinary diversity of ecosystemsit is in a class of its own in terms of the number of species on the island that exist nowhere else, said Jonathan F. Fanton, President of the MacArthur Foundation. But like other countries in the tropics that are home to much of the worlds greatest diversity of species, Madagascars natural resources are at risk because of its extreme poverty. In light of the challenges the government faces, we are enormously encouraged by current Malagasy President Marc Ravalomananas recent commitment to triple the area of the countrys protected land. We are providing funds to help meet the immediate goal of conserving large landscapes and ensuring local institutions are in a position to manage their biodiversity in the future.

The Washington, DC-based World Wildlife Fund received $625,000 to help create a trust fundthe Madagascar Foundationto help build the financial infrastructure needed to ensure there is funding available in the long-term to help protect Madagascars environment. Funds for the new foundation, which the Malagasy government expects will reach $50 million by 2008 and will be held in an endowment, largely will be used to finance national environmental management institutions. The support from MacArthur will include a capital contribution to the foundation to help attract investments from other sources, such as international agencies, governments, and other foundations. WWF will also use some of the grant support to help set up and ensure proper management of the new Madagascar Foundation. This will include helping the new foundation establish policies and procedures so it can effectively raise, manage, and invest its resources to produce the maximum conservation impact.

A grant of $500,000 was awarded to the American Museum of Natural History to help expand and enhance training opportunities for Malagasy conservation professionals through a training of trainers program. As the Malagasy government works toward increasing the size and number of protected areas in the country, MacArthur is directing funds toward efforts to build up the number of Malagasy conservationists. The program will not only create more opportunities for environmentalists in the country to learn about new techniques and research from around the world, but it will also create a pool of trainers who can continue the program and ensure long-term sustainability of conservation efforts in Madagascar. Funds will be used to develop training sessions on key topics in biodiversity conservation, such as landscape ecology, threat assessment, applied demography, and natural resource accounting. The program will be designed for both conservation professionals and university instructors who are in a position to continue the trainings for future generations.

The Missouri Botanical Gardens received a grant of $250,000 to help Malagasy conservation organizations better protect their countrys native flora, conserve its biodiversity, and sustainably manage its natural resources. Funds will be used, in part, to establish a team of Malagasy field botanists to identify the needs of and relocate at least 150 of the most poorly documented and critically endangered plant species from the Ibity Itremo mountain region on the east coast to areas that assure their protection. Grant support will also be used to create a Conservation Assessment Team of Malagasy specialists to conduct studies in 10 areas that have been identified as priorities for plant conservation. It will also be used to offer Masters level training for nine Malagasy students in applied plant conservation science and to set up a nonprofit Botanical Consulting Service to provide expertise on a contract basis.

The Field Museum of Natural History received a grant of $225,000 to train a team of four Malagasy field biologists to provide leadership for conservation efforts in Madagascar. These four scientists will provide a base of Malagasy scientific leadership able to conduct and interpret the results of rapid biological inventories in poorly or unknown forest areas on the island and to act as mentors for younger Malagasy students.

Conservation & Sustainable Development, Conservation