Preserving Paradise

Like Madagascar's rain forests, the country's National Forest Seed Bank (SNGF) in Antananarivo looks to be losing the battle against human encroachment. Engulfed by the capital's urban sprawl, the SNGF's small, scruffy patch of land has row upon row of seedlings, some of them species facing extinction in the wild. They seem too delicate to make it through the furious tropical storms common in the island's November-to-April rainy season. But SNGF director Guy Rakotondranony insists they will survive — they have to. The seedlings are "our hope for the future," he says, "our ecological insurance policy."

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