Ecotourism to protect the Tsingy,the stone Forest of Madagascar
The Tsingy of Bemaraha offer one of the most spectacular sights on the Big Island. Here are real rock cathedrals of limestone sculpted into blades or sharp needles: in Malagasy, Tsingy means "where one can walk barefoot” ... Jean-Claude Dobrilla, who is a caver and explorer, has ventured inside these incredible structures. To help maintain parks in Madagascar, he has created the Antsika association, which means "together" in Malagasy. His goal is to help local people to make a living from their natural resources whilst preserving them.
"I was a consultant in ecotourism for the natural parks of Madagascar from 1996 to 2006. My job was to create and develop tourist circuits in rocky sites with difficult access, including the Tsingy of Bemaraha Natural Park. Maintenance of these facilities is burdensome for the Madagascar National Park, which is responsible for managing 52 protected areas. This fact led to the idea of creating this association, which steps in at the request of the Malagasy to give support in problematic sites," explains Jean Claude Dobrilla.
THE TSINGY OF BEMARAHA NATIONAL PARK
Classified as a World heritage site by Unesco in 1990, the Tsingy of Bemaraha National Park is the largest protected area in Madagascar (152 00 ha). From the air, the show is fascinating, tall limestone blades as far as the eye can see, separated by deep cracks where the light is lost in a multitude of underground passages. This unique topography makes it a hostile environment, which is virtually unexplored and therefore has tremendous potential for future research.
THE FACILITIES OF THE PARK
In the past, only experienced professionals could access these inhospitable but grandiose environments. It is a real challenge for human beings to move through the Tsingy among these razors-sharp vertical blades, cliffs, sinkholes and deep underground labyrinths: it requires excellent caving and vertical techniques!
After several expeditions, some areas were selected based on their potential tourist attraction. Simple discrete access facilities were been designed to allow visitors to travel into the magical world of Tsingy. The project was funded by the European Union. The installation took avoer 9 years to complete. Today 8 circuits of varying difficulty are open to the public.
With the support of the Petzl Foundation, the Antsika association helps to maintain the Bemaraha Park facilities as well as those in the Ankarana Reserve, which is famous for its green lake nestled at the bottom of a deep natural amphitheater. Jean-Claude Dobrilla carries out essential, “behind-the-scenes” work in the Tsingy. He checks, repairs and secures all circuits, including bridges and suspended walkways above the sharp points of the Tsingy. He also trains the park officials and local maintenance labor. In addition, he organizes refresher training courses for guides.
THE ROLE OF TOURISM IN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
In Bemaraha and Ankarana parks, the Tsingy would be totally inaccessible without these access facilities. However today, thanks to a growing number of tourists visiting the area, many local people are now making a living there, such as guides, 4x4 drivers and all those who work in hotels and restaurants. In Bemaraha alone, at least 2000 Malagasy have found work in ecotourism.
It goes without saying that the proper maintenance of these access facilities has a significant impact on local economic development.
More about Madagascar:
According to UNESCO, Madagascar, often called "the land of mega diversity”, is a global priority in terms of biodiversity conservation. Intensive deforestation currently prevailing in Madagascar, will lead to the disappearance of the primary forest, in which 80% of plant species are endemic. Protected areas were created to save a few representative areas of each region. However, the experts are unanimous. In thirty years, apart from these protected areas, there will not be a single primary forest left in Madagascar. The survival of these areas will in turn be threatened, if the local residents do not benefit economically by protecting them.
There are currently 52 spread throughout the country. They are managed by the Madagascar National Park.
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