Between the cacao fields of northwest Madagascar and the vanilla of the northeast, a chain of rainforests bob along the highland interior. Tsaratanana Reserve, home to the country’s highest peak, has long been a key link in the chain, with abundant primary forest mostly undisturbed by human activity. Yet the reserve now faces threats on an unprecedented scale.
Primary and secondary forest in Tsaratanana Reserve is being cleared at a rapid rate, according to satellite data from the University of Maryland visualized on Global Forest Watch (GFW). Local officials say slash-and-burn agriculture for marijuana cultivation is to blame. Scientists say that if this deforestation continues, it will fragment the reserve’s well-connected forests and threaten the animals that live there — many of which are endemic, which means they’re found nowhere else in the world.