Located 50 kilometers north of the town of Morondava, Kirindy Forest, also known as Kirindy Private Reserve or Kirindy Nord, is a privately-operated natural forest preserve protecting a dry deciduous forest, one of the most threatened ecosystems in the country of Madagascar.
The dry deciduous forests of Madagascar are considered to be among the most distinctive and richest dry deciduous forest regions in the world and have been listed on the World Wide Fund’s Global 200 Ecoregions list. The country’s dry deciduous forest ecoregion is located along a stretch of the island’s western side between the Ampasindava peninsula and Mahajanga Province and throughout most of the island’s northern tip. The forests are also home to unique limestone karst formations known as tsingy, some of which are protected in the World Heritage Site of Bemaraha. Large portions of the ecoregion have been destroyed by human logging and development actions, with indigenous species such lemurs suffering threats from hunting and invasive species. A number of areas within the ecoregion have been declared protected regions, including Ankarafantsika National Park, Tsingy de Bemaraha and Namoroka Strict Nature Reserves, Ankarana Special Reserve, and Kirindy Private Reserve.
The area that now comprises Kirindy Private Reserve has been historically referred to as la forêt des Suisses, or “the Swiss people’s forest,” due to the logging activity of Swiss companies such as the Centre de Formation Professionelle Forestière, which took over management of the forest in the 1970s. The company began experimenting with sustainable logging practices following their acquisition of the forest’s 125-square-kilometer area, enlisting the help of German scientists in the 1990s to aid in conservation practices. In 1996, a research station was constructed within the forest, which is credited with laying major foundations for the region’s continued conservation efforts and ecotourism endeavors. In 2010, the company founded the Longon’i Kirindy nonprofit organization, which supports local schools through donations to plant trees within the region.
Attractions and Tours
Today, Kirindy Private Reserve is owned and operated by the Centre de Formation Professionelle Forestière and spans a 125-square-kilometer area, located approximately 50 kilometers northeast of the city of Morondava. The term kirindy is roughly translated as “dense forest with wild animals.” To avoid confusion with Kirindy-Mitea National Park, the reserve is sometimes referred to as Kirindy Nord. In addition to logging operations and scientific research, the Reserve is open to the public for guided tours and overnight experiences.
The forest’s ecosystem is dominated by baobab trees forming a canopy with an altitude of 14 meters. Three species of baobab trees are contained within the forest, including the Adansonia grandidieri, a giant, umbrella branched variant, the bottle-shaped Adansonia rubrostipa, and the fat-trunked Adansonia za. Other common tree species include the endangered Diospyros aculeata ebony tree, which features a star-shaped base and interior back heartwood. The forest enjoys a tropical climate, with summer temperatures often exceeding 30 degrees Celsius, and a wet season from October through April with rainfall exceeding 1,000 millimeters.
The reserve is the only known area protecting the giant jumping rat, the world’s smallest-known primate species, which walks on four legs but can hop in a fashion similar to a kangaroo. The cat-like fossa, the island’s largest predator species, is often sighted within the forest, along with eight lemur species, including the diurnal red-tailed sportive lemur and the nocturnal pale fork-marked, grey, and Madame Berthe’s lemurs, the latter of which has only ever been found within the preserve. Other mammal species include white and grey Verreaux’s sifakas and narrow-striped mongooses. More than 32 types of reptiles are found within the forest, including spiny-tailed iguanas, Brookesia and Oustalet’s chameleons, ground boas, lissom colubrid snakes, and big-headed geckos. Bird species include sickle-billed vangas, terrestrial white-breasted mesites, and giant couas. The forest is also the traditional home of the indigenous Sakavala people.
A number of visitor amenities are offered for ecotourism visitors, including 13 rustic bungalow spaces powered by solar panels, offering mosquito nets and showers and toilets with running water at most times. A small restaurant serving local fare is located within the camp, and a dormitory building is offered for visiting biologists and scientists. A training room is also offered for conservation and biology-related seminars, workshops, and training programs. Two-hour guided tours of the forest are offered by local tour guides, with packages available for day and night excursions, including meals at the camp’s restaurant. Overnight stays within the camp are also available. All explored paths within the forest are flat and easily walkable for most visitors. Night walk visitors are advised to bring flashlights for safety and exploration purposes.