Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Robert Yamate at the Ceremony to Donate Jackets to Volunteers at Marojejy National Park

Mr. Prime Minister, Dr. Patel, staff of Duke Lemur Center, local dignitaries, residents, partners, and friends,

It is a pleasure to be visiting SAVA today – my first opportunity as Ambassador.  And I am particularly pleased to be meeting with such a dedicated group of individuals, committed to preserving and protecting Madagascar’s unique biodiversity while also working to promote sustainable development and improve people’s lives.

The protection of Marojejy National Park and the other protected areas in the country cannot be done by the government and law enforcement alone.  It requires the engagement of the local populations, of residents such as the many who are present here today.  Because ultimately this is your country, your heritage, and your lives that are threatened when protected areas are encroached on, and natural resources stolen.  I comment you for your commitment.

Lots has been said recently about the threats to Madagascar’s remaining protected areas.  I’d just make two points:  first, this isn’t just about lemurs, although they are a unique treasure worthy of protection – or about trees. This is about the treat to people.  Deforestation makes storms more savage, droughts longer, floods more intense.  Protecting the forests protects lives.

It also protects the future.  Madagascar’s most precious gift to future generations of Malagasy is its nature, its unique flora and fauna, found nowhere else in the world. But for Madagascar to benefit responsibly from these natural wonders, it must protect them and development sustainable tourism that allows them to be showcased without being destroyed.  And I know that it possible, and we are here to help you do just that.

So thank you so much.  I am pleased to present these jackets to Duke Lemur Center and Marojejy National park for distribution to those working to preserve the parks in this region.