Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Madagascar's rare species threatened

Peasant farmers work in Madagascar, where a delicate ecosystem is threatened by rapid deforestation and expansion of agricultural areas.

ANDRAFIAMENA, Madagascar -- The opportunity to get into the field and explore the wilderness of Madagascar has revived my spirit for adventure, despite what so far has been an exhausting journey.

I was last here approximately 10 years ago, and from our bird's-eye-view within the 40-year-old helicopter transporting the "360" crew and me, the landscape below is much changed. The fact that only 10 percent of Madagascar's pristine habitat is still around feels much more visceral and takes on new meaning upon witnessing it firsthand, both from the sky and on the ground. (Watch Jeff Corwin meet Madagascar's unique wildlife)

While Madagascar is in a state of environmental crisis -- the unique ecology here is in great jeopardy -- there is still a powerful echo of the wildness that makes this southeast African island-nation most profound. More than 90 percent of the species inhabiting Madagascar are endemic, meaning that they are found nowhere else but here.

While in the field, we came across extraordinary creatures, such as the black sufaka, a mysterious lemur that only dwells within remote dry forests of the north. It is quite likely that before our visit with the black sufaka it had not been previously documented by video cameras.

Another highlight was when one of the Malagasy biologists with the Conservation International team found a mysterious, one-inch long gecko that could very well be a new species. A taxonomist -- the biologist who classifies species -- could easily work 10 years in the field for a discovery as rare as this one. To be there in person for this find is a moment to cherish.

Perhaps the most memorable experience, though, was when we came across a tiny adult chameleon (a very strange lizard indeed) no bigger than a matchstick. Its genus name -- Brookesia -- is longer than the creature itself, which as of yet has no formal species title, as it was just discovered two months ago.

While celebrating the find, we were sobered by the fact that this tiny treasure only inhabits a small patch of quickly disappearing rainforest that's surrounded by fast-approaching cow pastures and banana plantations.

Whether or not this newly discovered life form will survive into the future is unknown. But what is certain is that Madagascar is still a great biological reservoir that, while precarious in regards to conservation, is far from a lost cause. I leave Madagascar believing that humankind has a rare and immediate opportunity to protect this almost magical place, a failure to do so would certainly affect many generations to come.

-- By Jeff Corwin, Wildlife Biologist

Posted By CNN: 1:13 PM ET
  22 Comments
Hi Jeff:

It was good to see your report last night. It is just not the same without Anderson. Hate to be a complainer here but Anderson always adds something fun to the segments.

Hey, 360, why all the repeats in the second hour? Are you like totally taped now? How can you have "Breaking News" when it is a repeat of the first hour? Hmm...don't forget we are smart viewers? I always thought "Breaking News" was live.

I guess Anderson is using the free time to find the right Raw Politics song or maybe writing a new book!

Well, all I can say is I am getting caught up on my beauty sleep. LOL
Posted By Barbara Ann Ypsilanti, MI : 1:38 PM ET
Hi Jeff,
What a little world we really all live in. Every human, every animal big or small is part of this tiny dot called earth. Hopefully, with you and others pointing that out, we will see the change that's needed.
There's no do overs when it's too late. Thanks for all your work.
I must admit that some of the creatures you showed rivaled the ugliest dog in sheer icky, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And a gecko is a gecko that kind of grows on you after awhile...I think! Take Care
Posted By Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 2:17 PM ET
It truly must be an adventure traveling to Madagascar and witnessing rare to possibly newly discovered wildlife. Watching this Planet in Peril series has definitely captured my attention to the many precious areas of our world that are currently being exterminated in the name of greed.

It would seem that since Madagascar is a land mass that has many endemic species and species of wildlife that have not yet been discovered, that the Malagasy government would do something to protect it. It seems rather odd to me that the government there is endorsing practices that could eventually end all life, including human life, on Madagascar as we know it.

I know that Jeff Corwin is just an environmentalist and his mission is to only report on the wildlife that is threatened in these areas, but it seems to me that more in-depth reporting on the governmental structure and practices in Madagascar are needed so we know why people are just being allowed to slash and burn Malagasy rain forests until the land is barren. Then move on to the next piece of rainforest and so on.

Since the irresponsible agricultural techniques are a major part of the problem in this region of the world and all life, including humans, are threatened, plus the entire country may become completely barren in our life time, where are the indigenous Malagasy people going to go? Are neighboring countries concerned about a dieing Madagascar? Mass migrations of people cause serious conflict and war. Does the extermination of a complete country mean an extermination of a people?

Madagascar is a very exotic place filled with mystery and uniqueness that should be preserved. I hope that the proper governmental authorities can use this international exposure from CNN to further the cause of conservation there as well as better business practices (maybe/possibly), to protect its land mass for their posterity.

I hope that AC 360 goes back to Madagascar to uncover politically what is going on there to eradicate that country. Are there other countries behind this? Is the United States involved?

Madeliene

P.S. I love the adjective Malagasy. Malagasy! Malagasy!!
Posted By Madeliene Bolden; Atlanta, Georgia : 2:19 PM ET
Jeff,

I have greatly enjoyed your reports from Madagascar! I wish they could have shown way more of them on 360. I think this series has been the best so far! It seems like you have brought your way of doing shows over to PIP and it really has worked! GREAT JOB!! But maybe next time you can kidnap Anderson and drag him along with you! He seems to be MIA on the last few PIP's!

I'm glad that we got to see the lemurs, geckos and the new species also! I'm sad that the forests they live in are being destroyed and they may become extinct! I hope that something can be done to appease both the humans and the animals....so both can live together and not be harmed.

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Cindy : 2:21 PM ET
Hey Jeff,
This is so exciting that biologist have possibly found a new species of gecko. Thank you for bringing us this vital information.
I love the Planet in Peril series. It is so wonderful that 360/CNN is bringing us this awareness of environmental issues. We need to act before it is too late.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX : 2:36 PM ET
It is fun when Jeff and Anderson are reporting from some exotic locale together, but I'm still finding Jeff's PIP reports completely engrossing. Tuesday's report was particularly fascinating with the discovery of the new species of gecko. Jeff Corwin is great and his enthusiasm for his work is contagious.

I agree with the first commentor about 360's rather jarring change from a mostly live second hour (report intros from AC) to all taped. No sir, I don't like it. I REALLY hope this is just a summer thing.
Posted By Yvette D, Santa Fe, NM : 4:04 PM ET
Why don't you guys ever interview the local gov't officials and heads of state in these countries with lax environmental laws? It's not always up to the U.S. to fix these things that corrupt countries do, is it?
Posted By xtina, chicago IL : 4:06 PM ET
May I also add, Jeff that the people who "run" Madagascar def. should be educated in preseving their land, but do you think that some animal extinction is natural selection? We can't "engineer" everyting. Look at dinosaurs; man had no effect on their life...
Posted By xtina - chicago, IL : 4:19 PM ET
Jeff,
It's good to see that the PIP series is still going strong and consistent on 360. Thanks for all the hard and dedicated work you do. It shows that you really care about the planet.

These days PIP is about all we can count on for new material on 360, I've never experience such blatant repeating of the second hour. It's like someone rewound the tape and played it again so Anderson could go home.
Posted By Sharron, Newark, NJ : 5:16 PM ET
Hi Jeff,
Now that you've found a new species of gecko - it's time you learned how to make a "real" gecko! It is one of the best mixed drinks I've ever had! Keep up the good work.
Posted By Leslie Ann, Waco, TX : 5:19 PM ET
Observing a new species (or two) in person has to be so cool...I thought watching the newly discovered gecko on TV was pretty awesome. What I have wondered is whether or not someone can put a link on the website each time a segment is aired so viewers can get more information about the areas shown in the PIP series and donate to conservation groups working with those areas. It would be appreciated (by me, anyway). PIP is informative because Jeff Corwin knows "his stuff" and shares that knowledge with his audience.
Posted By Tammy C., Berwick, LA : 6:53 PM ET
Reading the comments on Jeff's new discoveries from last night's show was quite enlightening!

It's always nice to realize how encouraging and supportive one's "loyal" fans can be!

Hang in there guys!

TCSS
Maggie
Posted By Maggie, Grain Valley, MO : 7:09 PM ET
we might as well have global thermonuclear warfare and kill everything, so that nature can get a start on starting over after stupid, filthy human beings messed everything up
Posted By Stan, Seattle, WA : 7:13 PM ET
Jeff--

Magical----is our entire planet and on a daily basis I hear of more and more destruction to natural habitat areas. Every critter and creature of this Earth needs a home--a special place they can call their very own. Isn't it sad that the need for more money, commerce and 21st century technology causes the plentiful to become rare and the rare to become extinct! Even sitting here in the rural NW corner of Tennessee I am disturbed by all that I am exposed to on television and internet concerning the "rape" of natural habitats around our world so I'm positive as a world traveled wildlife biologist and conservationist you are ready to come undone. God made our world and every living creature on it. The depths of the ocean and the heavens above abound with his creations. Our planet has always been big enough for us to cohabitate and survive but the greed of human kind is ravaging this beautiful blue ball we call home. Keep up your vigil to make positive changes around the world. Godspeed to you and the entire 360 crew. From Madagascar to Memphis there is work to be done.
Posted By Zann Easterwood Martin, Tennessee : 7:50 PM ET
Dear Jeff,
The feature on Madagascar has been a joy to watch. Well done! It is urgent that more actions are taken to remedy the catastrophic situation prevailing in Madagascar. As it is echoed by earlier posts, more information need to be provided for people to really notice the extent of the damages in that corner of the world. It is tough to argue about environmental protection in a country where the average salary of a school teacher could be as low as about $500 a year. But I must say that over the past couple of years more actions have been taken compared to the last 2 decades or so (either by the local government or international organisation alike). Too little too late perhaps but still better than nothing. One has to admit also that despite a genuine need to address the issue, Malagasy resources may be limited. Cultural practices also makes the job twice as hard (think slash-and-burn practice that has been passed on for many generations to free enough lands to grow foodstuffs). That being said, there is a single root to this particular evil: poverty! I would like to believe that the people of Madagascar will be able to pull together to save their beautiful Island-Nation from what seems to be a grim fate but that would be a little naive. However, they also cannot do it alone. I agree that it shouldn't always be up to rich nations like the USA to "save" their poor counterparts through monetary "donations" (financial aid tend to cause more need for more financial aid when it comes to Africa.) However, those rich nations could provide knowledge in the form of training and expertise that I am sure can help a great deal. It takes only more of such a feature program to draw the nation's attention to what else is going on in the world. If your documentary reached out to even one environment preservation specialist and that he/she has decided to take whatever action he/she can to help, then I say to you Jeff: the world is truly indebted to you. Keep up the good work and thank you.
Posted By Ray, Long Island, NY : 11:57 PM ET
Anderson,
Just a question, if everyone seems to care so much about the environment then why is nothing being done to preserve it? Does the world at large think that resources will never depleet just because they haven't yet? Ya know . . . I know that I have milk in the fridge but eventually I will go to the store and get another jug before this jug is even empty. It's a simple approach really. What kind of world are we to leave our children? Throwing money at the issue isn't always the answer but I suppose if the world revolves on greed then let's throw money at the people destroying forests and natural water sources because of their greed. Maybe then they will leave things alone. How much money and power does one really need anyway? What has ever come of it that did anyone any good? There are so many more important things in life and the planet that sustains us should be first and foremost on everyones mind.
Posted By Amanda from Northborough, Massachusetts : 12:13 AM ET
I would like to echo the sentiments of the bloggers who have noticed that in the second hour of the show there are Victrolic repeats of stories in the first hour as well as sometimes stories that had been aired a long time ago in AC 360 specials that come back and you try to repackage them as new news stories in the second hour.

I understand that it is hard to have a two hour news cast especially one that spanns from 10:00 pm to midnight. The second hour from 11:00 to midnight is especially hard because people are either sleepy or sleep. This is so because we have to go to work in the morning.

Please keep in mind that your viewership is smart and loyal to you. We watch and take in what you put out there, so don't cheat. You all are a part of a news organization that is so expansive that I know there are many topics you can discuss to fill two hours without resorting to repackaging old stories or simply repeating 10 o'clock stories at 11 o'clock.

I like the format when you expand on stories in the 11 o'clock hour that you introduced in the 10 o'clock hour. I also like the 360 specials.

I agree with the blogger that you can not repeat what is breaking news at 10 o'clock as breaking news at 11 o'clock because then it is not actually breaking news.

Just some food for thought.

Sylvie Grace
Posted By Sylvie Grace; Atlanta, Georgia : 12:39 AM ET
Thank you for the fascinating reports from a region that I, admittedly, know little about. The creatures and habitat are so unique, I do hope it's not too late to preserve them.

Please 360, more Jeff, less (or better yet, no) Paris!
Posted By BJ, Bangor ME : 7:40 AM ET
Keep it up Mr. Corwin. We don't see you enough honestly. You have time and time again kept us informed about the animals and the environment, I hope Anderson Cooper or other CNN journalists would follow through in asking the leaders and governments the tough questions, keeping them honest, on why hardly any actions are taken in preserving the habitat.
Posted By lpfoong, Penang, Malaysia : 9:23 AM ET
These creatures are so precious. It's such a shame that we have been compromising and endagering their existance when it's our job to make sure they live.
Posted By Alejandra Rodriguez, Waverly Ohio : 1:00 PM ET
Hi Jeff,

I always look forward to your reports on the " PLanet in Peril" series, your work and dedication are tremendously important, from the footage of the beautiful and precious black sufaka lemur , to the discovery of a new species of gecko the tiny hooks on their toes allow them to walk on walls and ceilings, not sure if the species your discovered have these tiny hooks?, your humor and message of conservation makes this series so enlightening, thanks,!

Maritza
Posted By Maritza San Jose, Ca : 10:28 PM ET
Your reports with Anderson were top notch and my husband and I both had a good laugh over him "ewwwwing" over some of the stuff you made him touch hehehe. I look forward to seeing more of your reports. I do believe you've found your calling and hope you stick with CNN and telling what needs to be told about the Rainforests. I really enjoy your bits on CNN, much moreso than what you were doing for Animal Planet. So have fun, I'd really like to see Anderson's reaction to a python around his neck..you haven't truly lived til one thinks you are a tree! You'd better get that on camera. I live in Alaska, and am truly amazed everytime I head out on a hike with the wildlife that I see. And, the wildlife that I don't see! If you're not careful you miss it. I'm teaching my kids good animal husbandry and how to NOT mess with the animals versus what constitutes messing with an animal. Thanks for the great reporting and we look forward to more.
Posted By Heidi in Anchorage, AK : 4:10 PM ET
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