CEPF‘s initial investment in the hotspot focused exclusively on Madagascar. We awarded 40 grants to 18 civil society organizations.
Now in our second investment in the hotspot, which receives additional funding from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, CEPF provides a source of funding that is designed to reach civil society in a way that complements funding going to government agencies. We encourage inventive conservation ideas, in particular those that demonstrate the link between the benefits of biodiversity and sound development. We're also supporting concrete regional collaborations among on-the-ground conservation groups, which so far have been working largely in isolation.
Our investments focus on 38 sites in Madagascar, 19 in the Comoros, nine in Mauritius and 12 in the Seychelles. These sites—wetlands and waterways, dry forests, and coastal and marine areas—house ecosystems that have exceptional biodiversity but have thus far received less attention from conservation funders.
Because Madagascar and the continental Seychelles broke off from the Gondwanaland supercontinent more than 160 million years ago, the islands are a living example of species evolution in isolation. And on Madagascar, which makes up about 95 percent of the hotspot‘s land area, new species are being discovered at a rapid rate: 22 new mammal species and subspecies have been described in the past 15 years.
While one of the criteria to define an area as a hotspot is having at least 1,500 endemic plant species, Madagascar alone possesses an astounding 11,200. This endemism is not limited to plants: the island is home to five families of birds, five families of primates and two families of freshwater fish found nowhere else on the planet.
In addition to its incredible species diversity, the hotspot provides millions of people with fresh water and other ecosystem services that are essential to their survival.