Madagascar is in crisis. Since a coup last year that brought a DJ in his mid-thirties to power as president, this huge island nation has become a pariah state. For the most part, the international community has refused to recognise the new government. Most seriously for Madagascar, in an effort to persuade the new regime to restore democracy, most aid has been withdrawn. This has created a huge dent in the state's coffers because donor assistance accounted for a staggering half of Madagascar's income.
The fallout for an already poor nation has been profound. Thousands have lost their jobs in garment factories as a result of the United States' decision to suspend favourable trade tariffs for Madagascar. Others eke out a living on the streets, or have headed for the countryside to subsist on what rice they can grow. Hospitals and schools are under serious pressure. Over half of all children are malnourished, and family breakdown is an everyday event.
Now there is evidence that Madagascar's unique and spectacular wildlife - ancient hardwoods, baobabs, and lemurs - is especially endangered by corruption, poverty and a breakdown in the rule of law. The forests are being plundered. Loggers have illegally sought out and exported rare rosewood, and there is anecdotal evidence that hunting for bush meat, and the smuggling of rare wildlife are both on the increase.
As Madagascar celebrates fifty years of independence from French rule, Linda Pressly visits the capital of Antananorivo and travels out to one of the National Parks to find out how people are surviving in this island nation seemingly in freefall.