Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection
Vol.03 No.07(2015), Article ID:59549,15 pages

Instauration of Geopark Pilot: Preliminary Approach in Implementation Process of Geoconservation at Isalo National Park, Madagascar

Hasina Nirina Randrianaly1, Tsilavo Raharimahefa2, Aroniaina Rajaonarivo3, Andrea Di Cencio4, Daniel Haja Tolimasy5

1Département de Paléontologie et d’Anthropologie Biologique, Faculté des Sciences, Université d’Antananarivo, Antananarivo, Madagascar

2Department of Geology, University of Regina, Regina, Canada

3Isalo National Parks, Ihorombe, Madagascar

4Geology & Paleontology Technical Studio, San Casciano, Italy

5Institut Supérieur de Géologie de l’Ingénieur et de l’Environement Madagasikara, Antananarivo, Madagascar


Copyright © 2015 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

Received 20 July 2015; accepted 8 September 2015; published 11 September 2015


Although Madagascar has long been recognized as a biodiversity hotspot for conservation, very little is yet known about its diverse endemic fossils and the original beauty of its geotopes. The richness and endemicity of geodiversity constitute nonrenewable natural resources, which deserve to be valorized and protected. Protection of natural heritage resources, aligned with geotourism, can provide a sustainable way for the population to rise out of poverty. The main purpose of this work is the instauration of Geopark, a long-term project in Madagascar National Parks to support geotourism and sustainable development. Given its outstanding landscape and its unique bio- and geo-diversity, we adopt Isalo Park as a pilot site, and suggest that this specific area is sui- table for a Geopark. Following our field investigation, inventory and geodiversity assessments within the park are now underway, which will contribute to the implementation of Isalo Geopark.


Geoconservation, Geotourism, Geosites Value, Isalo National Park, Madagascar

1. Introduction

During the last two decades, the conservation of geological heritage and geodiversity took some momentum in developing countries, where they may achieve a double objective.

On one side, in developing countries as Madagascar, economic growth depends largely on natural resources as most of the population are uneducated or under educated. They are forced to depend largely on natural capital such as the earth’s resources (e.g. water, land, minerals, oil) and biodiversity [1] . Conservation efforts and initiatives of Madagascar National Parks organizations met within some of geosites of Isalo National Park are vulne- rable for catastrophic geological events such as flooding and rain runoff, which may produce and enhance mass wasting (rock falls and landslides) erosion and sinkholes.

Mining, deforestation and any other heavy anthropic activity might have a strong impact on country and in some cases those activities might tend to severe land degradation, natural geological transformation, and heavy sedimentation caused by the transported materials (see Figure 1). Consequently, there was the possibility that the land resource base became less productive, decreasing the wealth and economic development of the nation. This reality led to become aware of the need for management and protection of these geotopes and reveal priority to enhance the value of geoheritage [2] [3] .

On the other side, developing a project of conservation of geological heritage and geodiversity meant to diversify the job offering and economy of a country. It meant to think to another idea of tourism, the so-called geotourism, slower and conscious, which permitted to visitors to know not only the biodiversity and beauty of a country but also the sub-stratum under those beauties.

Madagascar, an Island located in about 400 km off-shore of the main land of Africa, did have several potential Geoparks. The country did have some National Parks, which were generally protected by local government via the Madagascar National Park (MNP) (formerly known as ANGAP).

1.1. Geoconservation in Madagascar

Landscapes are usually considered to include the assemblage of land cover formed by biodiversity, agricultural, human element and the landscape form. These natural heritage resources mainly attract tourists and are generally protected. They are considered as a tool for representing key areas of the landscape worthy of protection and stewardship action. During the last two decades, the use of term “geodiversity” for geoconservation was widely used and mainly highlighted by Duff 1994 [4] ; Sharples 1995 [5] ; Black 1988 [6] and Wimbledon et al. 1995 [7] , in order to promote geoheritage. Other terms such as geomorphosites ([8] -[11] and [3] ), geotopes ([12] [13] ) and geosites ([14] -[17] ) are closely connected to the geodiversity which has taken an important place in promoting natural world heritage. Geodiversity was defined by Gray (2004) [18] as representing the present and past diversity of geological (rocks, minerals, fossils), geomorphological (land form, physical processes) and soil features.

Figure 1. Land degradation due to mining of precious stones.

It includes their assemblages, relationships, properties, interpretations and systems. To enhance the action plan for geoconservation, many workshops, symposiums, conferences and projects were organized to promote the geodiversity. The Geopark concept has grown rapidly during recent years in African countries. One of the major achievements was the creation of the Association of African Women Geoscientists [19] .

Starting in 2002, many colloquiums were organized. The main shared objective is to endorse the understanding of Earth Sciences among women on the African continent by encouraging and mobilizing support for education, training and research [19] -[21] . Last year the five-day 6th Conference of AAWG held in Cameroon (23 - 27 April 2012) had the theme: Geoscience and African Integration. In addition, after the workshop “An Introduction to Geoparks” (3rd August 2004 in Windhoek) organized by the Geological Survey of Namibia and Unesco [22] , the first International Conference on African and Arabian Geoparks: “Aspiring Geoparks in the Africa and Arab World” El Jadida, Morocco, on November 2011, had been followed by the 24th Colloquium of African Geology (CAG-24) in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) during which one of the challenge is the creating Geoparks in Africa and discussions around some of the promising projects in Africa. In front of these situations, although the Unesco, 2010 supported Global Geopark Network (GGN) is represented by 88 members, many Africa countries had just start to initiate the instauration of Geopark. This baseline geoconservation studies in Africa should in the first, serve as a model, and in the second prompt us to promote the implementation of the geoheritage valorization, preliminarily in Isalo National Park for the instauration of Geopark in Madagascar The purpose is to allow new approaches more sustainable and more attractive for geotourism in order to preserve and improve the splendor of a natural heritage which includes the richness of geodiversity.

1.2. Geographical and Geological Setting

Isalo National Park is located in the province of Toliara (South Madagascar) along the national road RN7, more

Figure 2. Geographic location of the study area: Isalo National Park.

precisely in the region of Ihorombe, district of Ihosy and approximately 700 km South West of the capital Antananarivo and 29 km North-North-West of Ranohira (see Figure 2). The park was created in 1962, but the landmark had previously been well known to the Malagasy. Isalo Park covers 86,570 Ha and delimited by the Malio River on the west and by Menamaty River to the East. The southern side is crossed by the RN7 while its north side is bordered by the ruiniform massif of Isalo (see Figure 3). Isalo National Park is within the southern part of Morondava basin, which is characterized by a semi-arid climate, with small precipitation and a high thermal contrast 15˚C - 32˚C.

Figure 3. Isalo National Park hydrography.

Figure 4 shows that the main geological formation of the park is the Isalo group. The uppermost of the Karoo Supergroup of Madagascar is predominantly viewed by vast amount of clastic material of coarse sandstone mountains [23] ranging from 5000 to 6000 m thick deposited during Triassic to early Jurassic [24] . Sculpted by wind and water that showed an extraordinary landscapes of monoclinal and tabular beds, dipping gently to the west, these sandstone rocks, cut by deep canyons, very linked with rare endemic plants (see Figure 5) and fauna are sacred to the Bara and Sakalava Tribes [25] . One can distinguish in the landscape three geomorphological landforms: the ruin-shaped mountains, the tabular mountains and the sandy domes [26] .

2. Methods

Taking account the all relevant interests of methods process advanced by many authors that aiming to valorize and protect the geoheritage ([1] [27] -[32] ), the first step of the action plan consists to select the study area. The selection depends mainly of the geotouristic attraction values of the site. Given the current state of our knowledge, there is no particular legislation concerning the structure on geoconservation in Madagascar. In fact, in order to ensure the management of geosites, the second step is to include them into the protect areas (park) administered by a government structure. This is the reason of an active partnership with Madagascar National Parks (MNP), a main actor of the conservation. Among the several National Parks, Isalo National Park is one of the most visited National Parks in Madagascar (Figure 6). It was chosen as a pilot site for Madagascar’s geoconservation, not only because of its geomorphological beauty but also because of its location and its unique geo- and eco-systems which people can appreciate geological dynamic process.

The collecting data method is based on preliminary consultation of all scientific or literature sources of geographical, geological, cultural and social information contributing Isalo geoheritage. These are represented by reports, publications, maps and photos that reveal history of Isalo geosites. GIS applications is the main tool to improve representation of cartographical data (see Figures 2-4) in order to promote the knowledge and the usage of geosites/geomorphosites to the general public. Several fieldworks have been organized in goal to add more in detail the potentiality of the selected geosites. In the first time, these trips tend in order to localize, to verify and to complete all collected bibliographical data in Isalo National Park. In the second time, other geosites totally ignored before this work have been considered for a research and study detailed. The finality is to obtain a preliminary inventory of all interesting geosites and geomorphosites around the way in the park.

Isalo a National Park suitable for a Geopark: preliminary geosites inventory.

Table 1 and Table 2 exposed the description of Isalo National Park and their criteria for suitability as a Geopark [33] [22] .

There are currently several tours crossing the Isalo National Park of which originality is represented in Table 2 and Figure 7. Visitors can choose between easy and medium level circuits. It is possible to combine individual circuits by staying overnight at a campsite in the park. A good number of materials (articles, databases available, websites...) are focused on methodology of geosites value.

These important task for geosientists demonstrate that geodiversity conservation recognized as geoheritage request, economic value, scientific value based on rarity, representativeness, integrity and diversity [29] [34] and the combination of aesthetic, cultural and ecological value called “additional value” according to Pereira, 2006 [35] and Pereira and Peireira 2010 [36] . Indeed, the aim is to state if the potential geological heritage of Isalo National Park region can attract more tourists in order to bring the possibility of sustainable development in surrounding communities. Given the linkage between geosites’ values and the plan of expected results, Figure 8 is the synthesis of geosites’values relevant to the current issues of Madagascar [1] .

Geosites inventories are significant for geodiversity identification because conservation, contributing both to the enhancement of geoconservation and the sharing of knowledge about rock formation and past life [37] . The Museum is one possibility that should safeguard our geoheritage. In and around Isalo Park, (Ranohira to Sakaraha region) a well preserved, diverse assemblage of flora and fauna fossils has been excavated. Fossils of endemic species that succeeded mostly through the Mesozoic and Cenozoic offered testimony to the fact that these hills were once inhabited by a large number of invertebrate and vertebrate fauna. These fossils have helped paleontologists to explain and solve the mysteries of the evolution of pre-historic life valorization without preliminary inventory, may conduct a misinterpretation of geoheritage [38] . Table 3 gives a preliminary inventory of geosites’ values for potential geoheritage recognized at Isalo Park.

Figure 4.Geological map of Isalo National park.

Figure 5. One of the best endemic plant Pachypodium rosulatum in the Isalo National Park.

Figure 6. Number of visitors in the most frequented parks during 2011. The data is obtained from Madagascar National Park.

2.1. Sharing of Knowledge about Rock Formation and Past Life in Isalo Center

Physically accessible because situated in Zahavola locality, The “Centre d’Interprétation Isalo” (Figure 9) is a future museum situated about only 9 kilometers in the southern part of Ranohira village along the RN7, direction Toliary. The center holds a permanent exhibition focused on the geology, fauna, flora and cultural influence by the local people. The action plan for instauration of the Geopark project includes the renovation of this center with the main goal of geoconservation.

Figure 7.Touristic points and several tours crossing the Isalo National Park (modified from Madagascar National Parks brochure).

Contributing both to the enhancement of geoconservation and the sharing of knowledge about rock formation and past life, the Museum is one possibility that should safeguard our geoheritage. In and around Isalo Park, (Ranohira to Sakaraha region) a well preserved, diverse assemblage of flora and fauna fossils has been excavated. Fossils of endemic species that succeeded mostly through the Mesozoic and Cenozoic offer testimony to the fact that these hills were once inhabited by a large number of invertebrate and vertebrate fauna; these fossils have helped paleontologists to explain and solve the mysteries of the evolution of pre-historic life.

2.2. Geotourism and Legend Records

Local human population without any historic, geological, paleontological and geomorphologic education may use many legends in order to try to explain what they see, where they live and why. Usually different legends provide what may be considered the “noble or legendary origin” of a population, a city, a nation or a landscape.

Figure 8. Synthesis graph of geosites values relevant to the current issues to Madagascar.

Figure 9. “Centre d’Interprétation Isalo” the center for visitors and researchers situated around the park.

Table 1. Description of Isalo National Park (source: mnp, 2011 [33] ) and their criteria suitable for a Geopark (source: sch- neider & schneider, 2005 [22] ).

Table 2.Tours (Circuits) crossing the Isalo Park (Sources put out from and MNP [33]).

Table 3. Priliminary inventory of geosites values of potential geoheritage recognized at Isalo.

Moreover, such legends may explain to people what they have found inside rocks or in their territory (fossils, unknown archeological or geomorphological features).

Consider, for example, the double origin (noble or legendary and real) of Rome, the capital of Italy. According to an old legend Rome was founded by Romolus, together with his brother Remus, two orphans descendant of Aeneas (a very important hero during the ancient war in the Troy city) raised by a wolf female, on 21st April 753 B.C. Ancient Romans citizens really appreciated the legendary version of the origin of the city of Rome because they loved to associate their origin with the even more ancient Hellenic culture. The image of a wolf growing two children serves as the symbol of Rome as capital of Italy. Actually, first settlements of Rome are dated to the Bronze Age (about 1400 B.C.) and belonged to ancient shepherds and farmers.

As for what concern the presence of fossils, there is a noticeable example regarding ammonites. First ammonites found in England (in the area of Whitby, Yorkshire) were explained by the local population with the

Figure 10.Panoramic view in Malaso tour: Isalo’s window (source: Madagascar Nationa Parks).

Figure 11. Figure showing the wide eroded sandstone mountain of antsifotra tour (source: Madagascar National Parks).

reference to “snakestones” [39] . Snakestones were created by the Abbess Saint Hilda which, according the legend saved the village from snakes by turning the snakes into stones. This legend was born to explain why the rocks around Whit by were so rich in ammonites, including the genera named Hildoceras Hyatt 1867 and Hildaites Buckman 1921 (lower Toarcian, Venturi 1972 [40] ; 1973 [41] ; 1981 [42] ; Gabilly 1973 [43] ; Di Cencio 2007 [44] ), whose names derive from Saint Hilda.

The better example in Madagascar is the legend of the two beauties in such a natural setting, the mountain waterfalls in Andringitra National Park: According to local legend, the waterfalls are named “Riandahy” (the King) and “Riambavy” (the Queen). The story is told that the King and Queen after years of being infertile gave a sacrifice and swam in the waters and soon after had a baby. These waterfalls are still regarded as sacred by the locals, who believe that swimming in the waters (waterfalls over 250 m) will help infertile couples conceive.

The examples above mentioned are only a little sampling of the legends which ancient and primitive populations have used to explain the world they live in. The entire body of legends represents a richness usually not used in tourism projects. This richness is often connected with the geological and paleontological heritage of a place, much too complex to explain for a non-geologist population without the use of legendary keys.

Furthermore, the contribution of oral traditions and folks permits a true and equal collaboration between local populations, who have better known the legends of a place, than have tourists and touristic operators. Only in this way, indeed, the diffusion of legends, diversities among folks from different places and preservation of historic memory are guaranteed. Last but not least, diffusion and persistence in time of legends of the world represents an undoubtedly cultural and literally patrimony whose preservation should be considered a moral duty for every person.

3. Conclusions

Given the richness of natural heritage in Isalo Park, particularly the geosites, this work is a preliminary result as baseline steps demonstrating the relevance of preliminary inventorying of geoheritage features in National Park Isalo. Taking account the current issues of Madagascar, as a tool for geoconservation, the methodology being advanced are based firstly on the criteria assessment of geosites, in order to recognize their potentiality to attract more tourists because of the developed new awareness of the importance of geosites for a wide public.

Geoheritage is connected tightly to cultural additional value: a thorough census of Isalo geotopes will consider the presence of oral traditions and folk legends about historic, geological, geomorphological and paleontological features, in order to give complete information to tourists and scientists. The next step of the Geopark project will be used to focus group methodology for reconstitution of Isalo geoconservation and legends for nourishing the future Museum Isalo Center (Centre d’Interprétation d’Isalo).

Cite this paper

Hasina NirinaRandrianaly,TsilavoRaharimahefa,AroniainaRajaonarivo,AndreaDi Cencio,Daniel HajaTolimasy, (2015) Instauration of Geopark Pilot: Preliminary Approach in Implementation Process of Geoconservation at Isalo National Park, Madagascar. Journal of Geoscience and Environment Protection,03,25-40. doi: 10.4236/gep.2015.37004


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