Situated in a rich wetland area in the eastern part of Madagascar, ‘Rivière Nosivolo et affluents’ (358,511 ha; 20°03’S 48°07’E) comprises 130 km of main river system along which flowing water, lakes, pools and irrigated lands spread throughout 200 km, including 62 inland islets, according to the Ramsar Convention website
. The Nosivolo near-natural ecosystem is recognised by conservationists as having the highest concentration of endemic freshwater fish in Madagascar. The river begins at 1800m above sea level and extends for 130km, over waterfalls and cascades down to 700m asl, where it joins the Mangoro River before flowing out to the Indian ocean.
The Nosivolo site is home to 19 endemic fish species including the critically endangered Songatana (Oxylapia polli
). This fish is endemic to the Marolambo Rapids
of the river system. This Wetland of International Importance has become the first protected area for fish conservation in Madagascar. There are also six species of endemic birds, ten species of lemurs and reptiles as well as ten endemic plants.
The wetland acts as a catchment area, floodplain and retains sediment. The wide range of economic benefits of the site include handicraft production, while the natural resources provided by marshes assure sustainable fishing, rice fields and a unique pharmacopoeia.
Among those who had been campaigning for the riverine system to be recognised as a Ramsar site have been Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
and Conservation International
(CI). The two organisations and their local partners have been working in the Nosivolo since 2005 to save local endemic species from extinction and conserve the river for wildlife and people. What started as a programme of scientific research, gradually expanded
to incorporate a strong community conservation and development component.
These organisations worked with the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB) and the Biology Department at the University of Antananarivo (DBA) to conserve the fish species, while the community conservation and development initiatives were supported by CIs Node programme and the Jersey Overseas Aid Commission (JOAC).
"This is a huge success for the local community and for global conservation. I hope it will create opportunities for conservation of other important rivers in Madagascar," Deputy Secretary General for the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Professor Nick Davidson, said in a statement
Conservation International's Regional Vice President in Madagascar, Leon Rajaobelina, said: "We are extremely proud of this achievement as this is the culmination of years of work lead by the local communities that live along the river basin to improve the management of the natural resources they depend on. It is proof that healthy freshwater ecosystems are absolutely vital for development and human well-being."