Madagascar is the oldest island on the planet and home to a diverse range of species. Since July 2018, senior lawyers at DLA Piper have been working in partnership with the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Durrell) and the Government of Madagascar to establish a national action plan to tackle the growing trade in illegal wildlife. The project focuses on the critically endangered ploughshare tortoise, fewer than 100 of which are believed to exist in the wild. Prized both for their golden shells and as live pets, a single tortoise can fetch up to USD 40,000. The project partners are developing strategies to disrupt the illicit financial and transport pathways that drive the region's wildlife in order to protect this tortoise and other threatened species on the island.
The Project defined
The Project aims to support Malagasy authorities in combatting wildlife smuggling through their national borders. The project partners are working to build the necessary capacity within national Ministry and law enforcement agencies to tackle the wildlife smuggling from remote regions, through urban centres and transport hubs such as major ports and national airports. Building expertise and increasing seizures will support greater engagement with CITES and international support for local conservation efforts.
The wider context
Madagascar is one of the 17 countries identified by the UN Environment Program as megadiverse. With the longest coastline in Africa, Madagascar is home to entire families of species found nowhere else and contains the richest diversity of amphibian and reptile species in the world.
The conservation of wildlife resources is not a new concept for Madagascar. It was among the first countries in the world to establish a protected areas network well before the country's accession to the CITES convention in 1975. To this day, the Malagasy State continues to show its commitment to the responsible handling and preservation of its natural capital; however, a thriving illegal wildlife trade (IWT) continues to prosper at great cost to the country's national economy and poses an urgent threat to its biodiversity.
Numerous factors are cited as drivers of the proliferation in IWT including poverty, corruption, and cultural demands. Steps are now underway to bring Madagascar in line with other global initiatives to combat IWT against the overarching challenges of poverty eradication, sustainable community-inclusive development, and climate change.