Tsingy rock formations at Namoroka National Park

Wildlife Madagascar Field Site: Namoroka National Park

  • Location: Boeny Region, northwest Madagascar
  • Management category: National Park: IUCN Category II protected area
  • Current Management: Madagascar National Parks
  • Site size: 225.1 sqaure kilometers (86.9 square miles)

Namoroka National Park a formally protected area located in northwest Madagascar, which is currently managed by Madagascar National Parks (MNP). It was established in 1958, and it covers a total area of 22,509 hectares (55,621 acres) of tropical, semi-dry deciduous forest between an elevation of 71 and 227 meters. Within the protected area, there are also extensive grassland/savanna, meandering gallery forest, seasonally inundated pools/streams, and, perhaps most famously, limestone karst (known as tsingy) plateaus and canyons with extensive cave networks underneath. The area is incredibly remote, with most of the very few annual tourists driving west-southwest from Mahajanga along secondary roads that are in very poor condition.

Biodiversity in Namoroka

Namoroka hosts 10 species of lemurs; most notably, the Critically Endangered Van der Decken’s sifaka (Propithecus deckeni) and Tsiombikibo sportive lemur (Lepilemur ahmansoni). Species are not limited to the park boundaries, but rather appear to be relatively abundant throughout the seasonally inundated, albeit very narrow, gallery forests that meander across the landscape

  • Van der Decken’s sifaka (Propithecus deckenii) Critically Endangered
  • Red brown lemur (Eulemur rufus) Vulnerable
  • Grey bamboo lemur (Hapalemur griseus) Vulnerable
  • Tsiombikibo sportive lemur (Lepilemur cf. ahmansoni) Critically Endangered
  • Grey mouse lemur (Hapalemur griseus) Least Concern
  • Peters’ mouse lemur (Microcebus cf. myoxinus) Vulnerable
  • Coquerel’s giant mouse lemur (Mirza coquereli) Endangered
  • Fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus cf. medius) Vulnerable
  • Pale fork-marked lemur (Phaner cf. pallescens) Endangered
  • Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) Endangered

The area is well-known as having the highest species density of bats anywhere in Madagascar, with 21 species recorded here. The area is also an excellent for birding, with 102 species recorded. Concerning other taxonomic groups, informal inventories have recorded 6 species of amphibians, 31 species of reptiles, and 34 species of mammals, including lemurs. Fauna of potential high interest to tourists include Schlegel’s asity, giant coua, and rufous vanga. Very few biological inventories having been carried out within Namoroka, so there is no doubt many discoveries are still to be made.

Botanically, Namoroka has high diversity, with 554 botanical species recorded. Of those, 364 (68%) are endemic to Madagascar. Furthermore, 15 species are only known from Namoroka, while 45 species are known from only 2 to 5 sites throughout Madagascar.  Still, the area is in need of more extensive inventories throughout all areas of Namoroka, especially the seemingly impenetrable interior canyons. A top highlight is the fony baobab (Adansonia rubrostipa) with its distinctive reddish bark, which can be a striking contrast to its green leaves during the austral summer, especially in the early morning light. Another highlight is the flowering liana (Herreriopsis elegans), often found growing on tsingy.

Current Threats Facing Namoroka National Park

Assessments conducted by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List demonstrate that overexploitation in conjunction with unsustainable agricultural practices affect 62.1% and 56.8% of vertebrate species, respectively. They also show these practices affect nearly 90% of all Madagascar’s plant species. Following is a list of the major threats to Namoroka.  

  • Shifting agriculture (slash-and-burn)
  • Selective logging
  • Collection of secondary forest products (traditional medicine)
  • Uncontrolled fires associated with traditional grazing and tavy practices
  • Invasive animal species (feral dogs and cats, Indian civet, and black rats)

Improving the management of existing protected areas, through initiatives including agricultural training and livelihood enhancement such as ecotourism, is more important than creating new protected areas.