This article was originally provided by NewsMada in French. I have translated and edited the article below in English.
Illegal gold mining has been identified inside Ranomafana National Park, and has destroyed almost 50 hectares of land. The Ampasina area, located on the northwest side of the park, is the most affected and indigenous trees and plants have been particularly abused.
Illegal gold mining has existed since 2009 but has increased over the last three months of 2011, said an official of Ranomafana National Park. Due in part to the increase in demand for gold on the market.
Gold mining is an additional pressure threatening the lemurs, birds, and native plants of
Ranomafana. So far, “nearly 50 hectares of forest have been destroyed by illegal gold miners. Gold mining has affected the plants and trees that are both habitat and food for animal species. Since it is a marshy area, some species of animals that move also suffered the agony of this exploitation, ” according to Josiane Rakotonirina, the official in charge of Conservation and Research for Ranomafana National Park.
15 arrests, including women and children
Illegal logging is polluting the Amapasina area, near Ambalakindresy, and the Namorona River, which supplies drinking water to the town of Ranomafana and its surroundings, as well as degrading the natural landscape of the area. Given the scale of illegal activity, a special operation was organized by the town of Ranomafana, and park management to mobilize the police to clean up the site. Fifty illegal operators, all natives of Ranomafana, were found, of which fifteen have been subject to arrest and judicial proceedings, including women and children.
But the problem lies in the fact that the sanctions of the court seem mild and operators quickly return to the site to resume their illegal activities. “It is difficult to permanently expel the operators as the sentences imposed by the court are not severe or suited to the magnitude of the crime,” said the mayor of Ranomafana, Leon Marie Razanakoto. However, management of the park and City Hall have not given up, and are trying to ensure the security of the site while strengthening the control of entry into the park, community awareness surrounding the park on the danger of illegal logging and the importance of conservation. Under section 41 of the COAP, the illicit exploitation of natural resources in protected areas and national parks is classified as a crime, punishable by five years imprisonment.