Protecting Nature's Hotspots for people and prosperity

Helmsley Charitable Trust Increases Commitment to Environment of Madagascar with Contribution to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund

Woman walking on the beach in Ambodivahibe, Madagascar

NEW YORK, NY—The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has announced new funding of $900,000 to conserve the unique animals, plants and ecosystems of Madagascar and support local communities via a grant to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF).
The grant brings the amount of support the Trust has committed to Madagascar to more than $7 million for the resolution of environmental threats in ways that ensure the well-being of local communities while sustaining natural resources and protecting biodiversity. The Trust’s Conservation Program also invests in the Galápagos Archipelago in Ecuador, the Gulf of California region in Mexico, and Myanmar, and it has awarded more than $59 million to date to support these and other unique environments. 

“The Helmsley Charitable Trust’s continuing support for Madagascar demonstrates its commitment to the efforts of the Malagasy people to conserve the incredible biodiversity and unique ecosystems of Madagascar,” said Olivier Langrand, executive director of CEPF. “This engagement is crucial to ensure the future of this region, which is packed with plant and animal species that are found nowhere else on Earth and have a tremendous scientific, economic and cultural value for the communities of Madagascar as well as for the rest of the world. CEPF welcomes the opportunity to work with the Trust toward this shared goal.”

The new funding for Madagascar builds on CEPF’s $7.5 million conservation program in the Madagascar and Indian Ocean Islands “biodiversity hotspot.” In addition to Madagascar, the biodiversity hotspot includes the independent nations of Seychelles, the Comoros and Mauritius. 

Biodiversity hotspots are among the most biologically diverse yet threatened areas on Earth. To qualify as a hotspot, a region must meet two strict criteria: it must contain at least 1,500 species of vascular plants (more than 0.5 percent of the world's total) as endemics—species found nowhere else—and it has to have lost at least 70 percent of its original habitat.

While sheltering extraordinary concentrations of biological diversity, Madagascar has lost as much as 80 percent of its original forest cover. Slash-and-burn agriculture, mining and logging are among the main causes. Wetlands, including lakes, rivers and marshes, are also under threat from transformation to rice fields. 

“Throughout Madagascar, bold new protection efforts are underway to preserve the country’s distinct biodiversity, and the opportunity is ripe to build on these growing successes,” said Renu Saini, Program Officer of the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Conservation Program. “As the Malagasy leadership takes tremendous steps toward environmental conservation, we are thrilled to support CEPF’s collaborative efforts to enable civil society to participate in the protection of critical ecosystems alongside governmental partners.”

Through its program in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands, CEPF awards grants to local, national and international nongovernmental organizations to implement a stakeholder-informed conservation strategy. The strategy seeks to empower local communities to protect and manage biodiversity in priority areas; support civil society in mainstreaming biodiversity and conservation into political and economic decision-making; and strengthen capacity at local and regional levels through training, exchanges and regional cooperation.

CEPF is a joint initiative of l'Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.


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About the Helmsley Charitable Trust: 
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting effective nonprofits in health, place-based initiatives, and education and human services. Since 2008, when the Trust began its active grantmaking, it has committed more than $1 billion to a wide range of charitable organizations. The Trust’s Conservation Program works to resolve environmental threats through an approach that ensures the well-being of local communities while sustaining natural resources and protecting biodiversity. For more information on the Trust and its programs, visit www.helmsleytrust.org.

About the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund: 
CEPF provides grants to and builds the capacity of nongovernmental and private-sector organizations around the world that are working to protect biodiversity hotspots—some of Earth’s most biologically rich, yet threatened, regions—and improve human well-being. Visit us at www.cepf.net, Facebook, and Twitter.

Laura Fahey, lfahey@helmsleytrust.org, 212-953-2814
Julie Shaw, jshaw@cepf.net, 703-341-2457
Photo: Woman walking on the beach in Ambodivahibe, Madagascar. © Conservation International/photo by Johnson Rakotoniaina