Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, Madagascar


Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve is a World Heritage Site located in Madagascar from 18°17'-19°06'S, 44°36'-44°58'E.

caption Location of Tsingy de Bemaraha. Source: African Natural Heritage

Geographical Location

The reserve lies 60-80 kilometers (km) inland from the west coast in the northern sector of the Antsingy region of the Bemaraha Plateau, north of the Manambolo River Gorge. 18°17'-19°06'S, 44°36'-44°58'E

Date and History of Establishment

The area was first established as a strict nature reserve on 31 December 1927, and is now protected under Decree No. 66-242 of 1 June 1966. The ancient cemeteries within the Manambolo Gorge, the gorge itself, and the "forêt et rochers" (which includes the reserve), are all designated "natural monuments and sites" under a decree of 25 August 1937, all three being listed by an 'arrêté' of 11 February 1939. However, this latter designation does not imply any degree of management or protection. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990.


152,000 hectares (ha).

Land Tenure



150 meters (m) to 700 m.

Physical Features

caption A karst limestone formation, known as tsingy. Source: Andy Maloney/Wikipedia.

Much of the area comprises highly dissected limestone karst, part of the Bemaraha Plateau. This massif is delimited to the east by abrupt cliffs, the Bemaraha Cliff, which rises some 300 to 400 m above the Manambolo River valley and extends several tens of kilometers from north to south. The western slopes of the massif rise more gently, and the whole western region of the reserve forms a plateau with rounded hillocks which slope away, with decreasing steepness, to the west. To the north undulating hills alternate with limestone extrusions, while in the south extensive pinnacle formations make access extremely restricted. The northern side of the Manambolo River Gorge lies within the reserve, with cliffs falling some 100 m. Both seasonal and permanent rivers flow on the plateau (draining to the west), and numerous permanent springs arise at the base of the Tsingy on both sides. The Tsingy is an important water catchment for surrounding lands, particularly those to the west.


caption Manambolo Gorge and Plateau. Image courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.

Rainfall is seasonal, with a dry season of six to eight months, and a wet season around December-March. Annual rainfall is about 980 millimeters (mm), and the Tsingy is wetter than all areas lying to the west. Mean annual temperature is above 26 degrees Celsius (°C), and mean monthly temperatures remain above 20°C. Extremes of 38°C and 9°C have been registered in December and July, respectively.


caption Tsingy de Bemaraha. (Source: UNESCO)

Vegetation is characteristic of the calcareous karst regions of western Madagascar , with dense, dry, deciduous forest , and extensive anthropogenic savannas throughout. Although there have been few studies (mostly carried out more than 40 years ago), and the flora is not well known, many of the species are unique to this formation, including Diospyros perrieri (the ebony of the west coast), several Delonix species, and Musa perrieri (the only wild banana in Madagascar). Also, baobabs Adansonia are found here, and xerophytic plants such as Aloe on rocky formations. Notable families include Flacourtiaceae, Orchidaceae, Leguminosae, Euphorbiaceae, Annonaceae, Bombacaceae and Moraceae. The aquatic Aponogeton fenestrale occurs in some of the rivers. The vegetation is similar to that of the Tsingy de Namoroka, but the much larger area and the greater height of the karst relief make the vegetation richer here.


The fauna of the region has not been studied in any detail. The Tsingy is the only known location for chameleon Brookesia Perarmata (known from only a few specimens). Amongst the 53 species of bird recorded here, this is the only western dry forest site known for Madagascar grey-throated rail Canirallus kioloides (only previously known from north-western and eastern Madagascar). The reserve is also the only protected area where the endemic nesomyine rodent Nesomys rufus lambertoni is known to occur (a subspecies which is thought to be sufficiently distinctive to warrant full species status). There is also an unconfirmed report of aye-aye Daubentonia madagascariensis being seen just outside the reserve near Bekopaka. Other notable species include goshawk Accipiter hensti, which may be threatened, and lemursPropithecus verreauxi deckeni, western gentle lemurHapalemur griseus occidentalis, forked marked lemur Phaner forcifer, and Milne-Edwards sportive lemur Lepilemur edwardsi.

Cultural Heritage

A number of ancient cemeteries occur on the plateau and in the Manambolo Gorge.

Local Human Population

Several families live within the reserve (illegally), and parts are affected by the activities of people living in adjacent villages.

Visitors and Visitor Facilities

Tourism could potentially be important in this region, although access is currently forbidden by law, other than for scientific purposes. There are, therefore, no facilities within the reserve (and the nearest hotels are in Maintirano, 150 km by road from the edge of the reserve). Visitation is restricted to occasional visits to the pinnacle region to the south or to the forests in the north, and guides based at Antsalova and Bekopaka lead overnight trips to them.

Scientific Research and Facilities

Little work has been done in this region apart from a few collecting expeditions. The reserve was apparently surveyed in the 1930s, and the vegetation reported upon around 1970, although details are lacking. Studies of prosimians made in similar forests in other areas are reported on by Petter and Charles-Dominique, and of birds by Milon. There are no research facilities.

Conservation Value

In terms of its large size and relatively low surrounding human population pressure, Bemaraha Reserve is the single most biologically important protected area in western Madagascar. Vegetation consists mainly of dense dry deciduous forests, which are characteristic of the limestone plateaux of western Madagascar. The Tsingy de Bemaraha is the principle source of water for much of the surrounding region.

Conservation Management

There is no current management plan, the reserve is not zoned, and staff are insufficient to adequately run the reserve. However, a WWF project to help improve protected area management within the country has made several recommendations on management of the area. A national workshop on the conservation of the reserve recommended the development and implementation of a management plan as the priority action for effective implementation of the reserve. When this plan is drafted, the objectives of the reserve and its management will also be reviewed.

Management Constraints

caption Grassland burning. (Source: Texas A&M University)

The pinnacle region to the south is relatively well protected through its inaccessibility, but much of the rest of the reserve is seriously threatened by fire. Several tracks traverse the reserve or run north-south through it, and fires are set along them throughout the dry season (right of passage along these paths is legally recognized). In addition to grassland burning, forest edges are deliberately set on fire, damaging or destroying them, and rocky areas are burnt frequently, denuding the surface and allowing cattle access to the sparse grass between exposed limestone blocks. Cattle damage also occurs through much of the accessible forest, and may reduce regeneration locally. Some timber exploitation occurs near the villages, but its effects appear to be limited, as do the effects of hunting. Village agriculture on the eastern boundary is encroaching the reserve. An all-weather oil exploration service road from Antsalova penetrates approximately 30 km into the reserve, crossing the Tsingy. While this access could be of value to reserve management, currently it is used daily by villagers crossing the reserve, and provides easy access for cattle.

Despite the age of the reserve, no comprehensive resource inventory is available, there is no management plan, there are no facilities, boundaries are not marked, and there is no resident staff or budget. No effort is made to patrol the reserve or prevent legal infractions, including burning. This is in part a result of the relatively large size of the reserve, but also a result of insufficient personnel and a lack of transport and camping equipment. In addition, no public awareness or education programs have been instigated in surrounding settlements in any attempt to reduce damage to the reserve, and it is likely that most people in the region do not realize that the reserve exists. However, despite these problems, Petter and Rajery indicate that the degradation of the natural environment is considerably less than in many other regions of Madagascar, and that the potential here is high.


The Chef de la Réserve lives in Antsalova. At least one other auxiliary guard lives in Bekopaka.



IUCN Management Category

  • Ia (Strict Nature Reserve)
  • Natural World Heritage Site - Criteria iii and iv

Further Reading

  • Andriamampianina, J. and Peyrieras, A. (1972). Les réserves naturelles intégrales de Madagascar. In: Comptes rendus de la Conférence internationale sur la Conservation de la Nature et de ses Ressources à Madagascar, Tananarive, Madagascar 7-11 octobre 1970. IUCN, Switzerland.
  • Charles-Dominique, P., Cooper, H.M., Hladik, A., Hladik, C.M., Pagès, F., Pariente, G.F., Petter-Rousseaux, A., Schilling, A. and Setzer, H.W. (eds) (1980). Nocturnal Malagasy Primates: Ecology, Physiology and Behaviour. Academic Press, New York.
  • Gouvernement malgache (1989). Réserve naturelle de Bemaraha. Formulaire de proposition d'inscription sur la liste du patrimoine mondial. Submitted to Unesco November 1989.
  • IUCN (1990). World Heritage Nomination - IUCN Technical Evaluation for Bemaraha Integral Nature Reserve, Madagascar.
  • Leandri, J. (1933). Compte rendu d'une mission au Bemaraha. Bulletin du Muséum d'histoire naturelle de Paris.
  • Leandri, J. (1937). Reconnaissance botanique de la partie médiane de l'Ouest malagache. Bulletin de l'Académie malagache 19.
  • Leandri, J. (1938). La forêt d'Antsingy. La Terre et la Vie: 18-27.
  • Leandri, J. (1951). Sur quelques traits de la végétation des plateaux calcaires dans l'Ouest de Madagascar. Index bibliographique: Webbia, Vol. VIII. Pp. 155-175.
  • Milon, P., Petter, J-J., and Randrianasolo, G. (1973). Faune de Madagascar No. 35, ORSTOM-CNRS, Paris.
  • Nicoll, M.E. and Langrand, O. (1989). Madagascar: Revue de la conservation et des aires protégés. WWF, Gland, Switzerland. Pp. 55-58.
  • Petter, J-J. and Rajery, L. (1987). Parc Bemaraha-Manambolo: Projet d'Amenagement de la region d'Antsalova sur le principe d'une réserve de la biosphère. Rapport pour son inclusion sur la liste du World Heritage de l'Unesco.
  • Petter, J-J., Albignac, R. and Rumpler, Y. (1977). Mammifères lémuriens (Primates prosimiens). Faune de Madagascar No.44, ORSTOM-CNRS, Paris.
  • Rakotoariason, N., Mutschler, T. and Thalmann, U. (1993). Lemurs in Bemaraha World Heritage Landscape Western Madagascar. Oryx 27(1): 35-40.

Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). Topic editors and authors for the Encyclopedia of Earth may have edited its content or added new information. The use of information from the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) should not be construed as support for or endorsement by that organization for any new information added by EoE personnel, or for any editing of the original content.



M, U. (2010). Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve, Madagascar. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/156722


To add a comment, please Log In.