Preserving Madagascar's Natural Heritage: The Importance of Keeping the Island's Vertebrate Fossils in the Public Domain


  • David W. Krause
  • Patrick M. O’Connor
  • Armand H. Rasoamiaramanana
  • Gregory A. Buckley
  • David Burney
  • Matthew T. Carrano
  • Prithijit S. Chatrath
  • John J. Flynn
  • Catherine A. Forster
  • Laurie R. Godfrey
  • William L. Jungers
  • Raymond R. Rogers
  • Karen E. Samonds
  • Elwyn L. Simons
  • Andre R. Wyss


paleontology, illegal fossil traffic, natural heritage, dinosaur


The origin of Madagascar’s highly endemic vertebrate fauna remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of natural history. From what landmasses did the basal stocks of this unique and imbalanced fauna come? When and how did the ancestral populations arrive on the island? How rapidly did they diversify, and why? The most direct means of addressing these questions, and other enigmas concerning the evolutionary and biogeographic history of Madagascar’s vertebrate fauna, is through discovery of fossils from a sequence of well-dated geological horizons. Many fossils relevant to these queries have been discovered by paleontologists in recent years ... but many more are being lost to commercial enterprises, both foreign and domestic, that have little or no regard for the scientific significance of fossils. The objectives of this essay are to 1) provide an overview of Madagascar’s vertebrate fossil record and its importance, 2) raise awareness concerning the illegal collection, exportation, and sale of vertebrate fossils, and 3) stress the importance of keeping vertebrate fossils from the island in the public domain. In light of these issues, we underscore the necessity for development of adequate repositories and support infrastructure in Madagascar to safeguard and display the country’s vertebrate fossil collections; doing so would ensure the preservation and appreciation of Madagascar’s rich natural heritage for future generations of scientists and Malagasy citizens alike.