The mountainous forests of northern Madagascar are biodiverse beyond measure, containing plant and animal species found nowhere else on the planet. Other forests in Madagascar have been lost in recent centuries and decades, but these have stood the test of time and remained relatively unscathed. They are difficult to access, and some have been officially protected since the 1920s. And yet their protected status is no longer enough: satellite data show they are now being cut down at an increasing rate.
In May, Mongabay reported on the dire situation in Tsaratanana Reserve. Since then, deforestation has continued apace, both in Tsaratanana and a neighboring protected area called COMATSA. Levels of deforestation have spiked since September, according to satellite data from the University of Maryland (UMD) visualized on Global Forest Watch. The dry months of September and October are normally peak season for slash-and-burn, and sources say the clearing is especially severe this year due to economic pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.