You can download the AZE Case Study for Madagascar here

Madagascar AZE Case Study


Initiated in 2005 by conservation organizations, AZE is an initiative at the global level now totaling more than 98 members and aimed at identifying and protecting sites that are the only ones where some endangered species can be found. The conservation of these irreplaceable sites requires the adoption of policies whose objectives are to integrate the conservation of AZE sites into national conservation strategies aligned with the objectives of the CBD, as well as the policies of the international financial institutions. In 2010, at the global level, 587 sites had been identified in relation to 920 species considered, including 21 sites for 28 species in Madagascar.

From the end of 2015 until 2018, Birdlife International and its partners implemented a GEF / UNEP project entitled “AZE – Conserving Earth’s Most Irreplaceable Sites for Endangered Biodiversity”. The objective of the project is to prevent extinction of species at priority sites identified through AZE.

The project includes two components. The first is aimed at creating and improving the effectiveness of demonstration site management in Brazil, Chile and Madagascar. The second is …, achieved through two outcomes. First, the conservation of highly threatened species and the protection of AZE sites are integrated into the safeguarding policies of major international financial institutions. Second, the conservation of AZE sites is integrated into National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA) action plans and other national conservation plans in support of the goals of the CBD.

In Madagascar as in other countries, and globally, the project was guided by a series of workshops and other consultation processes. Thus, a project development workshop was held in 2014 and a start-up workshop followed in 2016, soon after the project was launched. Online consultations on new AZE sites and their limits were held in 2017. Finally, a sharing and validation workshop took place in 2018. In parallel with this, conservation actions were initiated and developed at the demonstration sites, the one in Madagascar being Tsitongambarika forest.

Information on the first component – conservation of the demonstration site – can be found in our AZE site stories section and here). This case study focuses on the national outcome of the second component: identification of AZE sites and promotion at the national level of AZE site conservation in Madagascar. From the outset it has been recognised that site conservation in Madagascar is technically and practically advanced, and species priorities are taken into account, but that an AZE approach can assist by further highlighting the importance of certain sites, drawing attention to the urgency of action and to some lesser-known species at high risk of extinction. Therefore, the central pillar supporting AZE site conservation in Madagascar through this project is the integration, or mainstreaming, of the AZE concept into the country’s conservation planning and practice.

This case study therefore has the following aims:

  • Present the current situation by site in Madagascar
  • Produce a strategy for the sustainable management and conservation of AZE sites in Madagascar to ensure the survival of the AZE trigger species they hold
  • Identify ways to further integrate the AZE concept into national strategies in Madagascar in the future

Madagascar’s AZE sites

Site information

Madagascar currently has 55 confirmed AZE sites (map below) and 13 candidate sites (where AZE site status has been proposed through the project consultations, typically in relation to taxa not comprehensively evaluated). All these sites are already recognised as being of conservation interest, and most have had management responsibility clarified, in many cases by delegation of management from the Government to other organisations, typically NGOs.

Sites Site Name With Managers Without Managers
Candidate 13 6 7
Confirmed 55 48 7
Total 68 55 14

This table shows that among these already confirmed AZE sites, two sites have partial protection (only a part included in protected areas) and seven (7) do not even have a manager. These sites are threatened by logging, mining, oil and national development projects.

Map: Protected Areas and AZE sites in Madagascar

On-site actions

The following table shows the number of sites with on-site conservation actions.

Total   sites Sites with conservation action Sites without conservation action
Candidate 13 6 7
Confirmed 55 48 7
Total   68 54 14

Of the candidate sites, six already have protection status and conservation actions are underway. On the other hand, it is of concern that 14 sites (so-called ‘Orphan sites’), including seven confirmed AZE sites, have no agreed managing authority and no conservation action is being carried out; in addition, parts of some key sites are unprotected.

Sites with conservation action

Most sites with managers are legally Protected Areas. The most common actions being implemented are:

  • A range of site conservation activities led by the managing entity
  • Patrolling and surveillance
  • Research on the target species for conservation
  • Social safeguards and development support for local communities dependent on natural resources, whose livelihoods are affected by protection.

Some managers have had the opportunity to conduct more activities, such as:

  • Ecotourism development
  • Ecosystem restoration
  • Reforestation

Sites without conservation action

These sites have been identified as conservation priorities through scientific research and / or an analysis of existing data, but conservation actions are almost non-existent.

Actions for species

Actions are often limited to the overall conservation of the site, addressing threats that affect the whole ecosystem. Few actions are directed at species, which may have direct threats or causes of mortality, such as illegal hunting or capture for trade, even though they are often conservation targets for protected areas. Seven confirmed AZE sites have species-focused actions, although in no cases were these claimed to be more than ‘satisfactory’ (see the following table).

Candidate Site Actions
Satisfactory 1
Very weak 12
Confirmed Site Actions
Weak 2
Satisfactory 5
Very weak 48
Total 68

* Possible values: Very weak/none, Weak, Satisfactory, Good

Conservation Strategies

Given the current situation of AZE sites in Madagascar, minimum conservation actions should be conducted to prevent the extinction of AZE trigger species. Actions have been divided into two major groups: 1) for sites with managers, and 2) for sites without managers. These actions are, as stated here, inevitably highly generalised, and much more detailed management planning with social and environmental safeguards (as required under Malagasy legislation and regulation) specific to the context is needed for full implementation.

Sites with managers

For Protected Areas with managers, the following actions must be implemented to ensure the conservation of the site:

  • Ensure patrols are carried out by the local communities and / or local Protected Area management committees
  • Research the AZE trigger species to identify conservation measures addressing direct threats to them
  • Support the population living adjacent to the Protected Area
  • Plan for, monitor and respond to fire risks and incidents as appropriate to the local level of this threat; fire patrol boats (tilin’afo) may be needed at some sites

The following additional actions are suggested:

  • Empower the local population to carry out species conservation (a strong source of pride, ownership and hence sustainability)
  • Collaborate with universities to support conservation-relevant research
  • Develop action plans and strategies for AZE trigger species

Sites without managers

The following actions are proposed for sites without managers:

  • Raise awareness of AZE site status
  • Collaborate with private sector extractive industries (such as mining, oil) to determine whether exploitation occurs around the site
  • Raise awareness of AZE site status in universities to encourage studies on AZE trigger species
  • A “Madagascar Alliance for Zero Extinction” could be created to advocate for conservation of AZE sites and their trigger species
  • Create Community Protected Areas to ensure the conservation of AZE sites and trigger species
  • Publicise widely the existence of AZE sites without managers, as some organisations may be interested to take on their management

Mainstreaming Strategy

The AZE concept has already been integrated into Madagascar’s CBD national reports and NBSAP. The next steps to mainstream their conservation into policy are to integrate the concept in all other national documents, including Regional Development Plans (PRD) and Communal Development Plans (PCD). Institutions working at the regional (subnational) level will participate in the development of the PRD and the PCD and should be supported to take AZE sites into account.

Mainstreaming Action Plan (download here)

List of AZE sites in Madagascar with management information (download here)