photo credit: Rachel Kramer Last week, as global leaders joined together in Copenhagen to start negotiations for a landmark agreement on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), I took leave from the National Wildlife Federation to travel to a remote fragment of rainforest in northeastern Madagascar.

I embarked on this journey in search of a remarkable species of critically endangered lemur, and the team of local researchers who are striving to protect it and its forest habitat.

Hauntingly beautiful and one of the world's 25 rarest primates, the elusive silky sifaka lemur Propithecus candidus, is only found in a few remaining rainforest fragments on the island Madagascar. In this remote part of the world, forest loss for slash-and-burn agriculture threatens silky sifaka survival and jeopardizes the ecological services local forest-bordering communities depend on.

Following the period of political instability that resulted in a government coup earlier this year, Madagascar's fragile natural resources have become more threatened than ever. Recent increases in the illegal logging of hardwoods from National Parks and Protected Areas to meet international demand for rosewood and ebony, has been concentrated in the very forests that provide the last remaining habitat for the silky sifaka.

The current environmental crisis in Madagascar highlights the great tragedy today that our world’s tropical forests are, in fact, 'worth more dead than alive'.

Until international mechanisms are put into place that assign value to the ecological services tropical forests provide in safeguarding ecological services and regulating our global climate, deforestation rates will continue to increase. And our own future, and that of critically endangered species like the silky sifaka, will continue to be in the 'REDD.'

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By Rachel Kramer, National Wildlife Federation.


Published: December 15, 2009